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! 🙂

Carol Topp, CPA
Helping Homeschool Leaders

My homeschool group wants to be a 508 PMA not a 501c3. Can you help?

Hi, we are creating a homeschool pod. I was wondering if you think 501c3 or 508 is better for us. We would like to be a PMA.

Hello, I am interested in a conference call. We are looking at getting a 508(c)(1)(a). Have you experience with these?

I have been hearing from homeschool leaders like the two above about PMAs (Private Membership Associations) and 508 status for a few months.

I am familiar with Internal Revenue Code 508(c)(1)(a) . It is not a tax status by itself. For example I never hear, “I want to be a 508c1a” like I hear “I want to be a 501c3”. 501(c)(3) is a part of the IRS code that offers tax exempt status to qualified nonprofits including churches, charities, and educational organizations including most homeschool groups.

Instead, IRC 508, and specifically 508 (c)(1)(A), is a section of the IRS Code explains when a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization does not have to officially apply for 501(c)(3) status.

The IRS gives “self declared” tax exempt status ability to two groups:

  1. churches
  2. tiny nonprofit organizations with less than $5,000/year in revenues

So when someone says they want to be a “508”, I have to ask:
“Do you plan to form a church?” I do not support the view that homeschool groups qualify to be churches (although some churches operate homeschool groups). But many homeschool groups have a religious purpose without being a church.
“Will your homeschool group be that tiny?” It’s pretty hard to operate with less than $5,000 in revenues per year unless everyone is a volunteer and fees (especially rent) are minimal.

If the homeschool group will have revenues of less that $5,000/year then section 508 (c)(1)(A) allows them to self declare 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. How to self declare your 501c3 tax exempt status. They should not call themselves a “508.” 508 is not a tax status. It is a clarification of the tax code that applies to qualified 501c3 organizations (churches and tiny organizations). There is no such thing as a “508” nonprofit organization. They are a 501c3 organizations (churches and tiny nonprofits) that self declared their tax exempt status.

There seem to be several blogs, websites and YouTube videos that promote IRC 508(c)(1)(a) as a status offering some hard-to-believe advantages such as :

  • no government intrusion
  • “true” separation of church and state
  • Not “signing away the rights of a organization or church to the IRS bureaucracy”
  • Free to serve God as a recognized minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

These advantages are not mentioned in IRC 508(c)(1)(a). Read it for yourself. It is actually quite narrow in scope and does not offer lofty, vague promises like freedom from government intrusion.

I find a lot of incomplete and even somewhat misleading information about IRC 508(c)(1)(a) on websites and videos about Private Membership Associations (PMAs) that I have been reading and watching.

Please read the IRS code yourself and maintain healthy skepticism when something sounds too good to be true.

It usually is.

I’ll post a separate blog post about PMAs Private Membership Associations and the research of three court cases where claiming to be a PMA did not allow the business owner to operate outside the law.

Of you have more questions, please Contact HomeschoolCPA. We can set up a phone consultation or Zoom meeting to discuss your homeschool group’s questions.

Carol Topp, CPA
Helping Homeschool Leaders