Explaining Taxes to Kids
Teach students about the concept of taxes (sales tax, state income tax, property tax) without diving too deep into the complex U.S. Tax Code.
Students will learn:
- what taxes are, who pays taxes and why we pay them
- the general concept of taxes, why they exist, and how they work
- the different type of taxes
- about some goods and services that are paid with taxes
- the basic process of collecting taxes
Time Required: 1-2 classes
Grade Level: 5th - 9th grade
Topics: Money, Math, Government
- Ask your students about the last time they visited a national park, they played in a local playground, or if they ever enjoyed the fireworks in their city/town for the 4th of July. Did they enjoy it? What in particular did they like? Have them share their experiences and memories.
- Ask if they know how much money it costs to maintain parks, playgrounds, or even their school (if they attend a public school) and where does the money comes from. It’s possible that they don’t know.
- Write the word ‘taxes’ on the board. Work as a class to define the term.
- Find a definition based on the idea that there are some things that individual people can’t buy themselves (such as recreation areas, the police and fire protection, etc.) and when people live together in a society, all its members must bear the cost of providing for certain services and things.
- Write on the board: Taxes are the means by which the society raises money to cover these public costs. We will focus on sales, income and property taxes.
- Ask if they pay taxes. They may not know that they regularly pay sales or transaction taxes whenever they buy things. States have different rates and counties and municipalities can also have a sales tax. Or that when you get you get a paycheck you pay certain taxes to the government depending on how much you earn and where you live.
Students will have to complete it as homework and they will share the information with the rest of the class.
- Sales Tax Activity and Answer Key (PDF)
- Sales Tax in Your State (table at the bottom sorted by state)
- State Income Tax Activity and Answer Key (PDF)
- State Income Tax in Your State (table at the bottom sorted by state)
- Property Tax Activity and Answer Key (PDF)
- Property Taxes in Your State (U.S. map at the bottom)