School children 'should be given tax lessons'

All school children should take part in compulsory lessons on taxation, so they can understand how it works, why it is necessary and what their obligations will be once they leave the classroom.

Issuing the recommendation, a body of chartered advisers said it was “very disappointed” that a new version of the draft national curriculum has lost a specific mention of educating 5-to 16-year-olds about taxes.

While the inclusion of teaching ‘financial skills’ is right to feature in the latest draft of the curriculum, it is regrettable that it now omits tax - “one of the least understood areas of personal finance” that all citizens face, said the Chartered Institute of Taxation.

“Most school children will one day become employees when they will need to be able to understand a PAYE coding notice or payslip and to be able to identify when it is wrong,” argued CIOT president Stephen Coleclough.

“Many will go into business where tax is a key cost and administrative burden that cannot be ignored. An understanding of taxation - how it works, why it is necessary and what the obligations of the taxpayer are – is an essential part of financial education.”

Pupils who go on to become students - where the effect of PAYE isn’t straightforward; investors – such as those who wish to invest in an ISA; and tax credit claimants, further highlight the value of teaching tax in the classroom.

“Tax may not be quite as enthralling as the rest of the population as it is for us… [but it should become] as familiar a feature of school education as Bunsen burner experiments and football,” added the institute.

“[Moreover], about a sixth of the ‘tax gap’ is attributed by HM Revenue & Customs to taxpayer error and carelessness. Public education, including at school, should be a key part of tackling this.”

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