LEGAL AND TAX QUESTIONS
How is Classical Conversations structured?
Classical Conversations is a for-profit business, with the purpose of cultivating consistent classical Christian homeschool community leaders. Directors are licensees and receive a license to use our brand and copyrights to offer services and materials within the licensed CC programs. Classical Conversations also has sales team members that make commission on every sale. As the local Directors and sales leadership are successful, so is Classical Conversations’ home office.
How does Classical Conversations comply with tax and property tax laws?
- Classical Conversations, Inc., has always complied with all IRS tax laws and was audited in 2019 for the 2018 tax year, in which we were found to be above reproach. We regularly consult with our legal and tax advisors to ensure we are acting with integrity and in compliance. As Proverbs 15:22 states, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”
- For hosting facilities: We know that property tax laws vary not only by state, but by county and even municipality, so it would actually be impossible to know all the tax laws and administrative rules. Still, hundreds of thousands of students have been learning in licensed CC communities hosted by churches and other facilities over more than 20 years.
- Many tax assessors have determined that families who wish to use church facilities as meeting spaces are able to do so, as our faith-based curriculum helps to further the primary and principal use of each church property, religious worship. Christian-based education offered through homeschool communities constitutes worship and supports the religious purpose associated with the use of church property.
Does the occasional use of church property by Classical Conversations’ homeschool communities compromise the real property tax exemption afforded to those churches?
Although it varies from state to state, state statutes and court cases have generally provided that the occasional or incidental use of church property by members of the general public shall not compromise the real property tax exemption afforded to those churches.
Classical Conversations’ homeschool communities use only a small portion of each church property one day a week (for only 24-30 weeks per academic year) for 4-8 hours during non-worship hours. As a result, the occasional use of church property by each Classical Conversations’ homeschool community is merely incidental to the primary and principal use of the church property.
Furthermore, the mission of Classical Conversations’ homeschool communities is to continue to foster and further Christian-based education, which in turn demonstrates and promotes the beliefs and objectives of the church. Therefore, by using the church property, Classical Conversations’ homeschool communities are able to further the primary and principal use of each church property.
For example, certain county assessors have specifically determined that the Christian-based education offered through homeschool communities using Classical Conversations’ curriculum constitutes worship, which supports the religious purpose associated with the use of church property.
Classical Conversations leadership has handouts accessible to church leaders that share more information on this matter.
What kind of guidance does Classical Conversations provide to licensees for tax and legal compliance?
We are not a legal or accounting firm. As independent business owners, Classical Conversations licensees are independently responsible for their business, legal and tax needs. Each licensee is encouraged to work with a local team of professionals who can best answer the legal and tax questions for each municipality and area.
Since there has been a lot of misinformation circulated to churches hosting Classical Conversations’ homeschool communities, are there resources available to help churches navigate and understand the issues relating to use of church property by homeschooling communities and its real property tax exemption?
Classical Conversations has partnered with ADF to offer churches that host a CC community access to the ADF Church Alliance membership. The benefits of the ADF Church Alliance program can be found here: https://www.adfchurchalliance.org/benefits. Classical Conversations encourages any church that hosts a Classical Conversations homeschooling community to take advantage of this membership by asking questions of ADF’s legal experts. If you are a church seeking the benefits of the ADF Church Alliance membership, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Is there additional liability associated with becoming a Classical Conversations licensed director?
Classical Conversations strives to equip each of its licensed directors with as many resources to run a successful homeschooling community as possible. Classical Conversations advises each licensed director to seek independent insurance, tax, accounting and legal advice to run each director’s homeschooling community. Each licensed director runs a small business, and that business may be structured in a variety of ways to address the director’s needs. There is no additional or “extra” liability that licensed directors of a Classical Conversations community face that is different, supplemental or in addition to any other risk that any other small business owner faces. Classical Conversations encourages each licensed director to seek any advice he/she feels is necessary to operate his/her community. If a licensed director does not have access to any resources he/she may need to operate his/her business, Classical Conversations has partnered with certain service providers to help licensed directors with ongoing resources needed to operate a homeschooling community. Please review the Director Licensing Guidelines for a list of CC preferred partners.
Many of the current leaders of Classical Conversations also have been licensed directors and have run homeschool communities in the past. While past performance can never guarantee future results, over 20 years of experience and thousands of communities positively influenced by Classical Conversations’ curriculum speaks to the power of the homeschool communities that Classical Conversations serves.
Must I classify workers retained by my homeschool community as employees?
The determination of whether a particular worker qualifies as an independent contractor or employee must be done on a case by case basis. The fact is that every business, and every worker, operates somewhat differently than the next. Thus, it is not possible to draw any absolute conclusions regarding how any particular worker might be classified. We encourage all of our homeschool communities to follow the law and give thoughtful consideration to the complicated analysis of whether a worker qualifies as an independent contractor. In that regard, Classical Conversations regularly monitors changes with respect to federal and state laws and interpretations concerning the use of independent contractors. We do our best to educate our licensed directors as to relevant developments, just as we have done in the past with California, so that they can make informed decisions regarding the appropriate classification of workers.
Can a tutor qualify as an independent contractor?
Again, the determination of whether a particular worker qualifies as an independent contractor or employee must be done on a case by case basis. Thus, determining whether a particular tutor qualifies as an independent contractor requires an understanding of the specific nature of the tutor’s relationship with the homeschool community.
It is true that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has found that teachers employed with traditional educational organizations usually qualify as employees; however, homeschool communities generally do not operate like traditional educational organizations. Many tutors operating within a homeschool community serve a very unique role, which may or may not qualify as employment. For purposes of illustration, the IRS has suggested that tutors retained on a part-time basis to lead discussions independently very likely may not qualify as employees. A primary factor that the IRS will consider in this regard is whether the homeschool community has meaningful control over the manner in which the tutor provides services.
Can my homeschool community impose certain standards without creating an employment relationship?
As previously stated, a primary factor that is considered in determining whether an employment relationship exists is whether there is meaningful control over the manner in which the worker provides services. Thus, the more control your homeschool community maintains over a worker, the more likely it is that the worker qualifies as an employee. However, the fact that a homeschool community insists that a worker comply with certain standards does not, in and of itself, constitute control. Homeschool communities, particularly those following the Classical Christian model, must be permitted to insist that any worker respect our values and beliefs, and that any services provided be consistent with the principles of the educational program. Requiring compliance with these standards does not, in and of itself, constitute a degree of control that automatically creates an employment relationship.
Can you have faith in the workplace?
Employers are not required to and, in fact, should not try to suppress all religious expression in the workplace. As a general rule, people have a right to express their faith in the workplace as long as they don’t harass others or lead people to mistake their private expressions of faith for the employer’s views. Indeed, federal law requires that employers with at least 15 employees accommodate an employee’s sincerely held religious belief in engaging in religious expression in the workplace to the extent that they can do so without undue hardship on the operation of the business.
Many laws that large and medium size employers have to abide by exclude small businesses (less than 15 employees). Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has created a free PDF called “Faith in the Workplace” that breaks down a lot of the half-truths and rumors on how Christians can operate their business and in the workplace. Much of it won’t apply, but it is always good to know the truth.
Does Classical Conversations offer volunteer opportunities?
No. Classical Conversations does not directly offer volunteer opportunities; however, as part of its ongoing efforts to support parents and children through their homeschooling journey, Classical Conversations offers community service opportunities for eligible students to incorporate as part of their overall education program. The third stage of the classical method of teaching is rhetoric, where students are given an opportunity to teach others what they know. Thus, students can enhance their educational experience by participating in these opportunities, which are conducted primarily for the benefit of the student as part of the education program.
What type of service opportunities are available?
Parents and students interested in incorporating community service into their overall education program can find opportunities at local homeschooling events in their community. Students have a multitude of opportunities to support their homeschool community and assist other families on their homeschooling journey by helping to setup, cleanup, monitor younger kids, etc.
What are the eligibility requirements?
To be eligible to participate in a community service opportunity, the student must be a minimum of 14 years old and enrolled in either (a) a homeschooling program using the classical education model, or (b) a traditional educational program which would benefit from the community service activity. In addition, the following terms must be followed in order to qualify:
- The student’s service shall provide an appropriate educational experience for the student to the maximum extent possible.
- The student’s service will not be used to displace any employee or other paid worker.
- The student shall not be guaranteed any job or employment opportunity following the completion of the service opportunity.
Are community service opportunities paid?
All service opportunities are unpaid; however, students who successfully complete a service opportunity shall be awarded community service hours.
What is Classical Conversations method of resolving conflict?
Classical Conversations maintains that the first and primary method of resolving conflict is to go directly to the person with whom the conflict resides, as Matthew 18 directs us as Christians. Our policy is to treat everyone with dignity and respect, and our desire is to always resolve conflict through relationship and personal connection.