Teaching Taxes: A Guide to Web Resources
t he U.S. tax system has grown astronomically since the implementation of the very first tariffs by the original 13 colonies, and it continues to have a huge
impact on the lives of all Americans. That’s why it’s important for students to understand the tax system. I’d like to
share a resource guide of online materials and information
that I created to bring students up to speed about taxes.
(See list on page 39.)
I start by giving students a list of tax websites and asking
them to explore at least three of the sites in depth. Then I
ask them to write down what they learn. Many students
report that they learned quite a bit about the various levels
of tax systems, and in fact some say they learn more from
the websites than they do from the class textbook.
After reviewing the responses, I plan a curriculum based
on what they are interested in and what they need to know.
By Lindon Ratliff
Recently, many of my students said they enjoyed the
presidential tax forms on the site taxhistory.org. So I focused my next lesson on a single president, Ronald Reagan,
and demonstrated how much of his income was taken out
for taxes. The students could then relate that to their own
projected yearly incomes. Students discover that the U.S.
tax system is designed to affect everyone in a similar manner because it’s based on percentage of income.
Next, I ask students to search the Internet to find information about the tax returns of a celebrity. One student decided to do his research project detailing how Survivor star
Richard Hatch was prosecuted for nonpayment of taxes by
the federal government, a charge he denied.
Finally, I have students download a W- 2 form from the
IRS website and have them practice filling out the form.
There are lots of lesson plan databases, such as the Lesson Plan Corner, that can help teachers put together engaging lessons to teach what can be a complex and daunting
subject. But it is also a rewarding lesson because it helps
students become more engaged citizens.
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