Can homeschool groups benefit from being a Private Membership Association (PMA)?

I have had several homeschool leaders contact me in the past few weeks asking about Private Membership Associations (PMAs). I had not heard that term before so I did some research.

I learned that PMAs are businesses or nonprofit organizations that have “members” like the Boy Scouts, a country club, a food co-op, or the National Rifle Association. Some homeschool groups have members. So do churches.

But then I kept reading and heard some statements that are hard to believe.

One of my clients gave me a link to a YouTube video of a webinar featuring a self-declared expert in PMAs (and an alternative called PEA-Private Education Associations), David Edwards, who clearly states he is not a licensed attorney. I am not linking to the video because I don’t want you to waste your time watching it! And I don’t want to be promoting it via my website.

Here are some things Edwards or the hosts of the webinar say:

  • (If you operate as a PMA) there is no authority for the government to tell you what to do.”
  • (for PMAs there is) “no government intrusion in your life.”
  • “If you are in the private domain you are no longer under the jurisdiction of the local state and federal government”
  • “If you’re educating within a private education association they (the government) can’t infringe upon any of the activities of your association or require that you turn over any documents to them”

The people in the video also advocate relinquishing your 501c3 tax exempt status, and says there is no need for general liability insurance and no need to look into daycare licensing.

Some of these claims are hard to believe. Some of it sounds too good to be true. And I believe it is.

In my research I came across a few court cases involving a PMA defense. Two especially sad cases were two newborns who died at the hands of unlicensed midwives in Indiana and Tennessee. Both midwives claimed they were not under any government jurisdiction and could not be sued because they were “a PMA.”. The courts determined otherwise, See

The advocates of PMAs and PEAs in the video and other related websites make a lot of vague promises and vague threats. They frequently claim that this information about PMAs was “hidden” until they started promoting it. The video promotes PMAs, PEAs, and Edward’s services. One of my clients was quoted $1,500 to draw up their “PMA paperwork.” (remember Edwards is not an attorney).

“The fake legal claims derive from the sovereign citizen movement,” said JJ MacNab, an expert on anti-government extremism. “It’s all phony legal theory. There’s nothing real there. If you look at the history of the sovereign and tax-protest movements, this is just a rehashing of an earlier scheme called the ‘pure trust.’ They just repackaged it,”

JJ MacNab, a fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism quoted from

What the promoters of PMAs and PEAs don’t seem to tell you are the disadvantages of a PEA/PMA, the tax consequences of relinquishing your nonprofit or 501c tax exempt status, and the liability exposure you may have by not having liability insurance.

Sometimes it’s not just what people say, it what they are not saying that you need to be careful about!

That is very true in this situation.

If you would like to understand PMAs and PEAs for your homeschool group, I recommend that you contact an attorney.

Or for a consultation about 501c3 tax exempt status and 508 of the Internal Revenue Code (it was mentioned several times in the video) for homeschool organizations, you can arrange a consultation, a licensed CPA. Me! 🙂

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