Is your homeschool group “just a bunch of moms”?

I’ve heard this too many times from homeschool group leaders to ignore it any longer.

“We’re just a bunch of homeschool moms”

It’s usually used along with one of these sentences,

…therefore we don’t want to (or need to) ...

  • be formally structured
  • follow the law
  • pay taxes
  • apply for tax exempt status
  • pay our workers as employees (according to the law)
  • record our income or expenses
  • notify our church host of the for-profit nature of our group, etc…

I’ve heard or read just about every one of these excuses!

Does saying “we’re just a bunch of homeschool moms” imply that:

  • homeschool moms are incapable of running legitimate businesses or nonprofit organizations?
  • homeschool moms can’t understand legal and tax issues?
  • homeschool moms are claiming ignorance as a defense against obeying the law?

Homeschool moms are intelligent, capable women. I know of hundreds of homeschool moms running businesses and nonprofit organizations very successfully and legally. I know some that are accountants and lawyers or, in the true spirit of homeschooling, are self-educated to understand complex tax and legal situations.

So let’s not imply that homeschool moms are not capable or not intelligent by saying “we’re just a bunch of homeschool moms”!

Instead, we should do what we do at home with our children:

Get educated about the legal and financial aspects of running a homeschool organization.

I have resources to help:

 

Carol Topp, CPA

Helping Homeschool Leaders who are smart and capable!

 

Tiny Homeschool Groups: Are We a Nonprofit?

Tiny Homeschool Groups: Are We a Nonprofit?

Tiny homeschool groups have different challenges than large programs. They are limited on resources, volunteers, and activities. But they still have questions about legal status, money and taxes that the large homeschool organizations have.

In this 4-part podcast series, Carol Topp, CPA answers the common questions that tiny homeschool groups face. All podcasts are available at HomeschoolCPA.com/Podcast

  • Episode #175 Are We a Nonprofit?
  • Episode #176 Do We Need to File Anything?
  • Episode #177 Do We Need to Pay Taxes?
  • Episode #178 Do We Need a Bank Account?

In this episode of the HomeschoolCPA podcast, Carol Topp will share:

  • Should our homeschool group be a nonprofit?
  • What does it take to be a nonprofit?
  • Aren’t we just a bunch of homeschool moms?
  • How can we avoid unnecessary paperwork?
  • How can we keep this simple?

Join the Facebook group for homeschool leaders: I am a Homeschool Group Leader. 600+ homeschool leaders offer ideas, encouragement and respectful exchange of ideas. https://www.facebook.com/groups/72534255742/

 

Featured Product

The  Board Manual for homeschool organizations will be very helpful to organize your board and run your homeschool organization successfully!

Author and homeschool advisor, Carol Topp, CPA, has created a Homeschool Organization Board Manual. It is a template to create a board member binder. It has:

  • A list of important documents to keep in your binder
  • Section dividers so you can organize the important papers
  • Tools to help you run your meetings smoothly including
  • A sample agenda that you can use over and over again
  • A calendar of board meetings

But this is more than just a few cover sheets for your binder. It is also a 55-page board training manual with helpful articles on:

  • Suggested Board Meeting Topic List
  • Board Duties
  • Job Descriptions for Board of Directors
  • What Belongs in the Bylaws?
  • Compensation and Benefits for Board Members
  • Best Financial Practices Checklist
  • How to Read and Understand Financial Statements
  • Developing a Child Protection Policy

Read more about the Homeschool Organization Board Manual

12 moms want to start a homeschool co-op. How to get started

Carol,

12 mommies started a homeschool co-op. We offer an educational learning class three times a month and social events (field trips). We are wanting to do things right. We are thinking of collecting dues and selling goods to have money for trips. How do we get started with registering as nonprofit, filing a 501c3, doing everything legal in my state?
Courtney

 

Courtney,

Good for you and the 12 families to help each other homeschool by forming a co-op!

Start by reading through my checklist of steps to form a nonprofit and apply for tax exempt status.

One of your first tasks will be to form a board, the 3-5 people who will lead the group and make major decisions.

My webinar Create a Nonprofit for Your Homeschool Community will offer you some great tips to form a board.

 

Then my book Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out should be a big help.

Finally one of your officers (usually the Treasurer) should read my book The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization. It explains the process to apply for 501c3 tax exempt status.

 

 

When you’re ready contact me and we can set up a phone call to see if you’re set up enough to apply for 501c3 tax exempt status!

 

Carol Topp, CPA

HomeschoolCPA.com

Helping Homeschool Leaders

Special Needs Children in a Homeschool Co-op

Special needs children can be a challenge for a homeschool group leader. In this episode (14 minutes), Faith Berens, Special Needs Consultant at the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) explains to host Carol Topp how a homeschool co-op can welcome a child with special needs.

In this episode of the HomeschoolCPA podcast, Faith shared:

  • All children want to feel welcomed
  • Tips for accommodating a child with special needs including using intake forms and having a pre-visit time
  • Why asking “How can we support you?” is so helpful to a parent
  • A helpful book to read aloud to children, Just the Way I am: God’s Good Design and Disability
  • A resource for homeschool leaders Homeschooling Children with Special Needs by Sharon Hensley
  • The website Understood.org has helpful videos and a podcast

HSLDA’s list of resources https://hslda.org/content/strugglinglearner/default.asp

 

Faith Berens can be reached by email at SpecialNeeds@HSLDA.org.

The next episode (#172) Faith will share some more resources and practical tools for homeschool leaders to help families of children with special needs.

 

In this episode, Carol mentions:

Homeschool Co-ops:
How to Start Them, Run Them and not Burn Out

Have you ever thought about starting a homeschool co-op? Are you afraid it will be too much work? Do you think you’ll have to do it all by yourself? Starting a homeschool co-op can be easy! This book Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out will give you ideas, inspiration, tips, wisdom and the tools you need to start a homeschool co-op, run it and not burn out!

Click Here to request more information!

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Reimbursement policy for a homeschool group

We discussed during our phone call the need to require receipts from our homeschool program’s teachers before they are reimbursed. I have some board members that are concerned. They are afraid it will be seen as more trouble than it’s worth and that we will have fewer moms volunteer. Their question is whether receipts are necessary.

-BW

 

BW,

Reimbursements…yes, the paperwork and receipts are necessary, because if your homeschool organization gives a volunteer a check without getting a receipt from her, it is considered taxable income to the volunteer teacher (under what the IRS calls a “nonaccountable plan”).

But if the volunteer teacher gives you a receipt, then the money your homeschool group pays her is NOT taxable income to her.

Here’s a blog post you should share with your board: No receipts for expenses can get you in trouble!

Your homeschool program should have a reimbursement policy that is an “accountable plan” to avoid your volunteers having to report the reimbursement as income on their tax return.

To be an accountable plan by the IRS, your reimbursement plan must include all three of the following rules:

  1. The expenses must have a business connection; that is, the expenses must have been paid or incurred while performing services as an employee (or volunteer) to your organization.
  2. The volunteer or employee must adequately account for these expenses within a reasonable time (typically within 120 days). Your homeschool organization must require volunteers/employees to give you detailed information on these expenses, including date, time, place, amount, and  purpose for the expense.  Lots of homeschool groups create a reimbursement form. I offer a sample here (it’s an Excel spreadsheet so you can edit it if you like).
  3. You must require the volunteer or employee to return excess reimbursements within a reasonable and specific period of time (usually 60 days). This is applicable if you give money in advance to a volunteer. Giving and advance is not typical in homeschool groups, but a few groups have told me that they give advances to some volunteer teachers.

If all three of these requirements are not met, the plan is determined by the IRS not to be an accountable plan, and any expenses reimbursed to the employee by your homeschool program are taxable to the volunteer!

So now you can see the importance of requesting those receipts (and having an accountable plan)!

Better yet, use my sample reimbursement form (opens an Excel spreadsheet) since it collects all the information required by the IRS to have an accountable plan.

I strongly recommend that your reimbursement policy state that if no receipts are turned in, no reimbursement money will be paid to a volunteer!

 

My book Money Management in a Homeschool Organization offers tips on reimbursement plan and other aspects of managing the money in a homeschool group.

Carol Topp, CPA

HomeschoolCPA.com

 

Income and expenses are a “wash.” Do I have to record them?

I’m treasurer for a nonprofit homeschool group. Every year some of the teachers charge a lab fee and it all gets spent on lab equipment. Do we have to claim that as income or is it just a wash because it’s used for materials or experiments?

Homeschool Treasurer

 

 

Dear Homeschool Treasurer,

You should claim/record the lab fees collected in full as income to your group.

Then also record the lab or equipment expenses to clearly reflect both the income and the expense.

If you don’t record the income, because it is a “wash” (meaning the same as the expenses, so no effect on your profit or surplus), then you are guilty of both under-reporting income and under-reporting expenses.

Your board will not have an accurate picture of all the income and all the expenses.

And you’ll be lying to the IRS! This is obviously more serious if your homeschool group is a for-profit business.

I warn against mixing income and expenses in your bookkeeping in my book Money Management in a Homeschool Organization.

Please take a few minutes and record all your income and all your expenses.

Carol Topp, CPA

HomeschoolCPA.com

Helping Homeschool Leaders

Is your homeschool program a ministry or a business?

Sometimes I hear people calling their business a “ministry.”

Maybe because they are motivated by concern and care for their customers or because they donate a lot of their time for free.

I don’t refer to my accounting and consulting business as a ministry, but some people have thanked me for “my ministry” to homeschoolers.

Yes, I do give a lot of my time away for free especially on social media like this Facebook group for homeschool leaders that I moderate and frequently I might reply to an email without charging a fee (if it is a short reply!)

But I am running a business and I don’t want to give the false impression that I am running a ministry or operating a nonprofit organization.

OK, not a lot of accounting firms get confused with nonprofits (!), but there are some businesses and homeschool programs that present themselves as nonprofit organizations or “ministries” but they are really for-profit businesses.

I don’t like that. At best, it is confusing to call your business a ministry. At worst, it is deceptive and can damage the reputation of homeschooling.

 

I have tremendous respect for the late Larry Burkett founder of Christian Financial Concepts (now Crown Financial Ministries) who was both a business owner and operated a nonprofit ministry. He wrote:

Don’t practice deception. If you have a product to sell that you honestly believe will benefit other Christians, let it be known, but don’t promote it as a ministry or as a spiritual happening.

Let your yes be yes and your no be no. In other words, let people know what the company is and what the product is.

If there is a referral or finder’s fee paid to another person for a lead, let that be known too.

If you’re afraid of losing a sale because of total honesty, the program is dishonest.

Source: Larry Burkett in Using Your Money Wisely p. 76 and 77 copyright 1985. You can read a longer excerpt here.

 

I have heard from several nonprofit homeschool organizations that say churches in their local communities got “burned” by for-profit homeschool groups posing as “ministries.” Read this blog post to understand why churches are reluctant to host for-profit businesses.

Now these legitimate nonprofit homeschool groups have difficulty getting a church to host their program.

Being deceptive hurts everyone.

We’re better than that!

 

Carol Topp, CPA

HomeschoolCPA.com

Helping homeschool leaders

Are my homeschool co-op fees a tax deductible donation?

I’m a homeschool parent and member of a homeschool co-operative that weeks weekly. I have to pay tuition to this group for the classes my children take there. Can my children’s tuition for the co-op be a tax deduction?

 

I assume you mean deductible as a charitable donation.

Co-op fees are not a tax deductible charitable donation because services (co-op classes for your children) were received in return for the tuition payments. Tuition payments are not a tax deductible donations.They are personal expenses and are not tax deductible.

But if a parent makes a charitable gift to the homeschool group (assuming it has 501c3 tax exempt status from the IRS) above and beyond the tuition and fee payments, then this amount would be a tax deductible donation.

Some homeschool parents ask if co-op fees can be deducted as childcare expenses. My reply is “usually not” and here are the details: Are homeschool co-op fees child care tax deductions?

 


Did you get paid for teaching at a homeschool program? You may have questions about your taxes? I offer webinar to help you understand the tax implications of being a paid homeschool co-op teacher or tutor:

I recorded a webinar on Tax Preparation for Homeschool Business Owners. It should be a lot of help to tutors, non-employee co-op teachers and other homeschool business owners! You can watch the recording at HomeschoolCPA.com/HSBIZTAXES for a small fee of $10.

Carol, thank you again for the webinar. It was one of the BEST webinars I’ve EVER attended. If you do hold another one, I would pay for it hands down. Totally worth the $10! -Denise, webinar attendee

“I actually don’t care for webinars at all – it is not my learning style at all and I struggle to focus, but this one was extremely value and had my attention”. -Mary, webinar attendee


I hope that helps!

Carol Topp, CPA

HomeschoolCPA.com

Helping homeschool leaders

13 benefits of homeschool co-ops

This is a throwback to 2009 when first posted and is still a great list of benefits to homeschool co-ops!

Heart of the Matter had a great article written by Katie Kubesh on the benefits of homeschooling with co-ops.  She surveyed several co-ops members and here is what they received by being in a homeschool co-op:

  1. Kids enjoy the variety of resources and materials provided
  2. Parents do not have to do as much research and footwork on their own; they are able to share with other co-op parents
  3. Co-ops gives homeschooling families the opportunity to bond with other families in their city or state
  4. Co-ops keep homeschooling families on schedule
  5. Co-ops keep homeschooling families accountable for their studies
  6. The extracurricular activities are fun for both the parents and kids, including football games, craft parties, theme parties, field trips, etc.
  7. People who belong to co-ops sponsored by their church appreciate the opportunity to share their faith and bond with other parish families and the pastors, who sometimes participate also
  8. Co-ops that offer classes or unit studies give students the opportunity to learn a broader range of topics and/or to learn a subject their own parents may not be comfortable teaching, for example higher level mathematics, music, or foreign languages
  9. Students are exposed to different types of teachers
  10. Students are held accountable by someone other than their parents
  11. Parents provide each other with support and encouragement
  12. Students have the opportunity to interact with kids of all ages, not just their grade or age level
  13. People who belong to co-ops have a wide selection of experiences. Some belong to large co-ops that include over 200 families. Larger co-ops are able to teach many classes (one offers 80 different classes from preschool through high school with subjects ranging from science, math, history, art, music, foreign languages, drama, and public speaking) and sponsor many field trips and other activities. Some larger co-ops even offer courses that students earn college credits for.

Isn’t that a great list?  I especially like # 9, 10 & 11  because those are the main benefits I received from my homeschool co-op.

Katie goes on to explain the benefits or large and small co-ops.  Sometimes small co-ops grow into large co-ops and the leaders find themselves managing larger groups of people, in a larger space and handling more money.

My book Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out can also help a homeschool co-op leader run a successful co-op, whether small, medium or large, without burning out!

Carol Topp, CPA

Leading a Virtual Homeschool Co-op

 

Homeschool families are pretty familiar with homeschool co-ops. It’s a gathering of homeschool families to cooperate together in teaching classes. They usually meet once a week at a location close to the participating families. But have you ever heard of a virtual homeschool co-op?

In today’s podcast Carol Topp interviews homeschool leader Sheri Payne who runs a virtual homeschool co-op that meets online. Participants attend from across the globe!

In this short podcast episode (18 minutes) of the HomeschoolCPA podcast,  Sheri explains:

• How the virtual co-op works
• What technology is used
• How to operate it without cost to the parents
• The advantages of a virtual co-op
• The disadvantages of co-oping online remotely and online

In the podcast Carol mentioned …

Homeschool Co-ops:
How to Start Them, Run Them and not Burn Out

Have you ever thought about starting a homeschool co-op? Are you afraid it will be too much work? Do you think you’ll have to do it all by yourself? Starting a homeschool co-op can be easy! This book Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out will give you ideas, inspiration, tips, wisdom and the tools you need to start a homeschool co-op, run it and not burn out!

Carol Topp, CPA

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