Government Intrusion and 501c3 Tax Exempt Status for Homeschool Groups

IRS-Building1

Hi Carol,

I am part of a homeschool group in Colorado.  We do not have a non-profit status and most people in our group do not want to organize that much.  Some of the people in our group have had some experiences with 501c3 status that the government has made them open their group up to individuals that they would not normally allow in their group because they are a government entity (like permitting someone not in our faith to teach a class).

Thank you so much for your help to the homeschool community and for whatever answers you can give us.

Sincerely,
Michelle P

 

Michelle,
Good for you in wanting to make sure that you are doing things properly in your homeschool group.

Your people are mistaken. Receiving 501(c)(3) tax exempt status does not make your organization a government entity; it simply means that you are exempt from paying income tax on your profit and donors can make tax-deductible contributions.  It’s a tax status.

501(c)(3) status does not mean you  must open up your group to everyone. You are free to set membership requirements and choose who teaches a class. Does a Catholic school have to allow non-Catholics teach in their school?  No. Sometimes a Catholic school may hire non-Catholic teachers, but the teacher usually must agree to uphold Catholic principles.

 

IRS and Your Homeschool Org cover

My book, The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization explains the pros and cons of applying for tax exempt status and the process and tips for getting approved.

The process to become tax exempt is not as scary or as difficult as it used to be. In 2014 the IRS introduced an easier, online application for small nonprofit organizations, the Form 1023-EZ.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

Save

Adding religious purpose to bylaws and Articles

man_with_bylaws

Dear Carol

Our homeschool group is currently a 501(c)(3) association that was organized in 1986. Our articles of association were recently found and we find out that we are NOT a Christian group, even though many of us are Christian and we are recognized by the community as a Christian group.
Will switching from a secular to a Christian homeschool cause us to lose our funds in the back account or to cause any fee to be incurred by the IRS?

Becky W

Becky,
It is hard for me to advise you without seeing the Articles of Association or your 501(c)(3) application. If you have electronic copies and can sent them to me, it would be helpful.Your Articles of Association (or Articles of Incorporation) and your 501(c)(3) application define your group’s purpose.

Your bylaws and policy manual are where you you explain how you fulfill that purpose. For example, you might include a Statement of Faith in your bylaws, or a membership requirement that members need to be Christians, etc. It’s very simple to change bylaws. You simply get the board to vote  a change. Follow whatever your bylaws  say is needed to change the bylaws.

Nonprofit corporations that wish to add a religious purpose to their Articles of Incorporation, do that by amending the Articles of Incorporation with their secretary of state. These groups need a vote by the board (as outlined in their bylaws) to make changes to the Articles.

(In Becky’s case, her organization is an unincorporated association and is not required to file any Articles of Association or changes to the AoA with the state).

You asked: “Will switching from a secular to a Christian homeschool cause us to lose our funds in the back account or to cause any fee to be incurred by the IRS?You should not lose your funds, but your board needs to approve all changes to the bylaws and Articles of Association.

You could perhaps contact the IRS (via a letter) if you wish to add to the scope of your 501c3 tax exempt application (i.e add that you have a religious purpose).

If you can dig out your 501c3 application (Form 1023) and read what you originally told the IRS, it would be helpful. The religious purpose may already be  mentioned.

I hope that helps.

 Carol Topp, CPA

Homeschool group not open to the public. Is that allowed?

church_body_400_clr_8912

On your chart comparing the two types of tax-exempt status for homeschool organizations, under 501(c)(3),  it says membership is open to the public. However, many homeschool groups have membership qualifications. Some require members agree with a Statement of Faith or or not participate in a public-school-at-home program.
Thanks for your insights.

Dorothy

Dorothy,
You asked about membership in your homeschool group being open to the public. You do not have to throw open the doors to your homeschool programs and let everyone in. That could be logistically difficult and it could threaten the safety of the children participating in your programs.

I should clarify that 501c3 groups serve a public good-the education of children- but they may limit membership to their group.

Also, when the IRS determines a group is a public charity (and educational organizations are considered public charities), they mean the organization is funded by the public, unlike a private foundation which is funded by an individual or a family.

Remember, we, as Americans, have the freedom to assemble and that means we can determine who can join our groups and who cannot join. So membership requirements are allowed.

Sorry if that was not more clear.

Carol Topp, CPA

Homeschool leader collecting donations without tax exempt status.

PCmakesmoney

Our homeschool group leader just opened a Paypal account and has begun asking for donations. This seems a little weird and as though we need to be a nonprofit if money is collected from members. I referred her to your website, but she believes we have nothing to worry about. Is this true? Should we be a nonprofit if money is involved? How can I help her understand the ramifications of not using your resources?
Randi

Randi,

Thank you for contacting me.

Oh dear, your leader thinks she has nothing to worry about! It’s just not that way anymore!

Whenever an organization collects money from either member dues or donations, the leaders have a fiduciary responsibility for managing that money properly. If they do not manage the money properly or get organized properly with the IRS, the leaders can be held personally liable for any mistakes.

This blog posts explains the fiduciary responsibility of leaders: http://homeschoolcpa.com/what-are-the-legal-responsibilities-of-homeschool-leaders/

An organization cannot accept tax deductible donations unless they have 501(c)(3) tax exempt status from the IRS. Most homeschool groups collect membership dues, but those are not “donations” and they should not be called donations.

How can you help your leader be more responsible? Explain that if your group is not properly organized then the money she is accepting will be seen as her taxable income by the IRS and she will have to pay taxes on it!

To get properly organized start by reading a few of my blog posts and articles.

This quick video may help as well: https://youtu.be/FLvfw23z7M0

Good Luck!

Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com

How to use another nonprofit’s tax exempt status (legally!)

holding_big_sweepstakes_check_400_clr_14237

Hi Carol,
I run a support group that encourages homeschoolers to engage in STEM competitions. We have had students win prize money in the past and we would like to have be able to open a checking account to receive that prize money. Some organizations will give directly to students, others require an educational organization with a W-9. We are considering a DBA  or an LLC, where any prize money would be granted to the group and then distributed via an application process to homeschoolers who start STEM groups.

I am willing to personally take on the prize money as income to me if someone wins and deduct then the tax amount. Since we do not collect any dues, we do not want to file for 501 tax exempt. There is no money to pay the fee. If no one wins anything, we have no income to report.

Would you suggest either the DBA or the LLC, or do you have another suggestion?

Thank you for any assistance.
Blessings to you!

Kathryn

Kathryn,

Thank you for contacting me. You are doing a wonderful thing for homeschoolers!

From what you described, I don’t think a DBA (Doing Business As name registration for a business) or an LLC (a for-profit business) would be the best arrangement. My concern would be that grantors of the prize money would not award funds to an LLC/for-profit business.

Additionally,  accepting payments in your name might not qualify as an “educational organization” to the grantors.

Instead, you probably need to establish an official nonprofit organization (I can help with that) or find another nonprofit organization to take your STEM program under their umbrella. They let you use their tax exempt status and it’s easier than setting up a new nonprofit organization. It’s called fiscal sponsorship and it’s legal, if done correctly.

Learn more about Fiscal sponsorship

Carol Topp, CPA

Fiscal sponsorship: What is it and how can it work for your homeschool group?

FiscalSponsor umbrella

“Fiscal sponsorship generally entails a nonprofit organization (the “fiscal sponsor”) agreeing to provide administrative services and oversight to, and assume some or all of the legal and financial responsibility for, the activities of groups or individuals engaged in work that relates to the fiscal sponsor’s mission.”(Source: http://www.fiscalsponsors.org/pages/about-fiscal-sponsorship)

Fiscal sponsorship is an agreement for one nonprofit (the sponsor) to  to help another nonprofit (the project), usually in a temporary agreement. It means the sponsor lets the project come under their umbrella for an event, project or activity.

I think it’s a great idea and something your homeschool group should consider.

If you’re a large homeschool group with 501(c)(3) tax exempt status already granted, consider helping a small start up homeschool group in your local area. Agree to let them come under your tax exempt status umbrella for a set time period. This is an excellent arrangement to help a Lego team, a temporary event, a sports team or a new start up co-op.

If you’re a small homeschool group, just getting started, ask a larger, established homeschool group if you could work out a temporary arrangement to use their tax exempt status while you get up and running. Work out the details in a written agreement. Perhaps you can offer to pay the parent organization a small amount in return for being allowed under their umbrella.

Learn more about fiscal sponsorship:

http://fiscalsponsorship.com/

http://www.fiscalsponsors.org/pages/about-fiscal-sponsorship

Fiscal Sponsorship: 6 Ways to Do It Right by Gregory Colvin describes six models of sponsorship that have been approved and accepted by the IRS. It details how the models work and why, how they differ and how they are similar.

Summary of the book and its six models of fiscal sponsorship by the author: http://www.fiscalsponsorship.com/images/WCTEO_Gregory-Colvin.pdf

After reading up on fiscal sponsorship, you might have a few questions. I’d be happy to set up a phone consultation. Contact me.

Carol Topp, CPA

Can a Classical Conversations community be a tax exempt nonprofit?

 

I am directing a local Classical Conversations group, and many churches in our area will not consider housing us because we are not a nonprofit. Since I am basically an independent contractor licensed by CC corporate to run a community in my area, am I potentially eligible to have my community declared a nonprofit?

-Jen, Classical Conversations Director

 

Jen,

I recently discussed nonprofit status for CC Communities with Classical Conversations COO, Keith Denton.  He explained to me that “CC Directors (who are licensees of CC) may form an entity through which to run their homeschooling operations.

“CC does not require a director to run his/her homeschooling program through an entity, nor does it require that such director choose a specific type of entity (non-profit versus for profit) for its homeschooling community.

“CC recommends that all directors consult with an accountant and lawyer when making the decision of whether to form an entity, and what type.  The decision of which entity to form depends on a variety of factors specific to the director and state where the homeschooling community is formed.  As such, consultation with an attorney and accountant in a director’s community is highly recommended to best address all relevant factors. ”

I have helped several classical homeschool program apply for 501c3 tax exempt status, but not a community under a licensed director.

I can help you weigh the pros and cons of for profit or nonprofit status for your CC Community. Contact me to schedule a phone consultation.


 

Have you considered wanting to start a homeschool program? An academic program, but not a co-op and not a for-profit business, either. But a nonprofit organization with an academic emphasis–maybe with a classical education focus.

Sounds like a great idea! But where to begin?

Carol Topp, CPA, the Homeschool CPA and Jamie Buckland are teaming up to to bring you:

ABC’s of an Academic Homeschool Program

An hour-long webinar on Monday February 18, 2019 at 8 pm ET

The webinar will be recorded for later viewing.

Get details and register here.


Carol Topp, CPA

Save

A new nonprofit corporation. Do they need to reapply for 501c3 status?

homeschool nonprofit

Hi Carol,

I have been listening to your podcasts. Our group is already a 501c3 registered charity with the IRS. Unfortunately, we registered with our state as an unincorporated association. We would like the limited liability of a non-profit corporation and have the funds to apply, but after listening to your podcast I have a few questions:

1) Do we need to set up a new bank account? Or just change the set up on our current accounts? We have a Paypal linked, Amazon Smile account, Cash for Our Cause through our bank.

2) Will this affect anything with our IRS account? We won’t have to re-apply for 501c3 status will we?

Thanks for your help!
Misty in Texas

 

Misty,

I hope some of my podcasts were helpful! Thanks for listening.

Bad news: You need a new EIN and must reapply for tax exempt status

If your organization now wishes to become a nonprofit corporation (and I highly recommend it), you will have to get a new Employer Identification Number (EIN) and re-apply for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status in the name of your new corporation with its new EIN.

When you create a corporation, it is a new legal entity. So the IRS wants you to get a new EIN and makes you go through the 501(c)(3) application process again. Bummer.

Here’s a recent blog post on that issue: http://homeschoolcpa.com/incorporated-in-your-state-time-for-a-new-ein/

Good News: It’s easier to apply for 501(c)(3) status

Fortunately, the IRS does have a new short application for 501(c)(3) status, Form 1023-EZ. I have assisted about 25 nonprofit organizations get tax exempt status the new Form 1023-EZ. Some have received their tax exempt status in 10 days. That’s much faster than the 3 to 13 months in the past! Contact me if you’d like my help in applying (or reapplying) for tax exempt status.

The bank should make you open a new bank account with the new EIN. Paypal, Amazon Smile, etc. probably don’t care about your new corporate status, but you will need to re-connect them to your new bank account.

Carol Topp, CPA

What? Homeschool support groups cannot be religious?!

church_body_400_clr_8912

Carol,

Our homeschool support group has a statement of beliefs that every member must sign to be a member.

However, I was reading the 501c7 guidelines  for Social Clubs and learned that we cannot discriminate based on religion.

Does that mean in order to be tax exempt we cannot require a belief statement?
Blessings,
Lana in TX

Lana is referring to this IRS statement on Social Clubs. Most homeschool support groups fit the criteria to be tax exempt as a 501(c)(7) Social Club.

The club’s governing instrument may not contain a provision that provides for discrimination against any person on the basis of race, color, or religion.

 

Like many laws, you need to keep reading to see if there are exceptions to the general rule.
And there are some exceptions. The IRS guidelines state:

The statute does not require a club to have a certain percentage, or even any, of its members from different, racial or religious groups. So long as there are no written restrictions, a club does not violate the discrimination provisions. http://www.irs.gov/irm/part7/irm_07-025-007.html

 

But Lana’s group does have a written policy, a Statement of Faith, that every member needs to sign.

Does that mean homeschool support groups cannot have a Statement of Faith?

Read on…

IRC § 501(i)(2) provides an exception for a club which in good faith limits its membership to the members of a particular religion in order to further the teachings or principles of that religion, and not to exclude individuals of a particular race or color.

(i) Prohibition of discrimination by certain social clubs

Notwithstanding subsection (a), an organization which is described in subsection (c)(7) shall not be exempt from taxation under subsection (a) for any taxable year if, at any time during such taxable year, the charter, bylaws, or other governing instrument, of such organization or any written policy statement of such organization contains a provision which provides for discrimination against any person on the basis of race, color, or religion. The preceding sentence to the extent it relates to discrimination on the basis of religion shall not apply to—

(1)an auxiliary of a fraternal beneficiary society if such society—

(A)is described in subsection (c)(8) and exempt from tax under subsection (a), and
(B) limits its membership to the members of a particular religion, or
(2) a club which in good faith limits its membership to the members of a particular religion in order to further the teachings or principles of that religion, and not to exclude individuals of a particular race or color. ( my emphasis added)

 

So, Lana’s homeschool support group can have a statement of faith and discriminate on the basis of religion provided their purpose is to further the teachings and principles of their religion (and they don’t discriminate on the basis of race or color).

Carol Topp, CPA

Is my homeschool group considered a school?

school_house_400_clr_9041

Hi Carol,
I took a look at the 1023-EZ worksheet to see if we qualify for filing as a tax exempt organization. Question #11 asks if we are an educational facility. Then it goes on to define what they mean. I do not know how our organization would not fall into that category. Our goal is to support homeschooling families by providing weekly classes for middle and high school students. We do make it clear that our tutors are working alongside parents. Parents have the final decision on the grade their student will receive for the class. So, what do you think? Does that mean we do not qualify to apply for tax exempt status?

Virginia

 

Virginia,
Form 1023-EZ Eligibility Checklist Question #11 asks if your origination is a school, college or university described in section 170(b)(1)(a)(ii). That part of the Internal Revenue Code describes a school. I do not consider homeschool programs to be a school as the IRS defines “school.”

One aspect of a school is a “regular faculty,” which the IRS defines as

“qualified teachers instruct the students, and the same teachers do so on a recurrent basis.”

Source: Internal Revenue Manual  viewed http://www.irs.gov/irm/part7/irm_07-026-002.html#d0e549 on 5/11/15.

And by “qualified” the IRS means:

“certifications by the appropriate state authority or successful completion of required training.”

Source: Instructions for Form 1023

So when you look beyond the Eligibility Checklist into the guts of the IRS code, you’ll probably agree with me that homeschool organizations are not schools because they do not have regular, “qualified” faculty. Most of the teachers in your homeschool organization may be qualified to teach a class at your homeschool co-op, but are not state certified, nor trained as teachers.

Your homeschool organization (probably) qualifies to be a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization as an educational organization, but not as a school.

I hope that helps!

Carol Topp, CPA