The IRS has produced a comprehensive website, lesson plans and instructional materials to teach public school children about taxes. The IRS website is titled, “Understanding Taxes“.
Kids.gov supports the teaching of elementary school children about taxes. Explaining Taxes to Students Lesson Plan (Grades 3 – 5):
Overview: Your students may be curious about what taxes are and why we pay them. The Internal Revenue Service has a great Understanding Taxes website. The teacher section has lesson plans, interactive activities and printable components for middle school and high school students.
Here are excerpts from the Grades 3 – 5 student lesson plan:
- Explain that taxes are collected to pay for things that we all share, like roads, parks, and playgrounds. We also share in the cost of services such as the public school system or the police department. Activity – Ask students to list other government services that might be funded by taxes. Here is an Online 2011 Federal Taxpayer Receipt where data can be entered to see how tax money was distributed across government programs.
- Tell students that there are different types and amounts of taxes based on where a person lives and his/her income. Talk to students about:
- Income Tax – Explain that most people in the country have money taken from each paycheck to pay income taxes so the federal government can pay for things like national defense, inspecting food, researching cures for diseases, and helping with disasters. Activity – Ask the students to create a list of goods and services they share with the family members of their household. If their parents pay them for chores, ask whether they think they should give some of this back to pay for these goods and services. Using a weekly allowance as a paycheck and setting a fixed tax rate, have students calculate their “net pay.” Have students discuss how the tax income should be divided between the goods and services they listed.
- Sales Tax – When a student wants to buy something with his own money, he finds out about sales tax when his purchase unexpectedly costs more than the “sticker price”. Explain that states and cities charge taxes on almost everything that is purchased so they can provide their own services, and that the sales tax rate can vary from state to state. Activity – Have students examine receipts to compare the “sticker price” of items to the final cost of the items with sales taxes included. Optional Activity – Have students calculate sales tax and the final cost of an item using the sales tax rate for your state.
- Property Tax – Explain how every year, some adults pay taxes to the local government based on their house’s value. Explain that properties are assessed periodically to determine their value. Even in rented property, explain that the property taxes still get paid, but they’re probably included in the monthly rent. Probe – Ask students to speculate on what happens to the amount of property tax owed when home improvements, like adding a new bathroom or finishing a basement, are made. Optional Activity – U.S. property tax rates vary from state to state, typically .2 to 4%. Have the students calculate the property tax for 3 properties at different values using the same tax rate. [My emphasis]
At the end of the lesson plan is this activity:
Discuss with students that not everyone agrees on taxes. The Boston Tea Party is a good historical example of introducing the idea of resistance to taxes. (Note the illustration about Colonialists attacking a hapless tax collector.)
Probe – Ask students to speculate on the consequences if a large number of people refused to pay taxes. [My emphasis]
Many consider this indoctrination and not education. What do you think?