There are two things that I always write about at this time of year. One of those is Patriots’ Day and the American Revolution. The other thing is income taxes. In this post I’ll share some resources for teaching and learning about income taxes in the United States.
Tax Help for High School Students
A couple of years ago I found myself helping a couple of my high school students file their income tax returns for the first time (a teacher’s job is so much more than content area). When that happened I put together a list of resources for other high school students who are filing tax returns for the first time. Those resources are included below.
My local public library and many others around the United States have hosted volunteers to help people like my student file their federal and state income tax forms for the first time. Check with your local public library to see if and when they’re hosting volunteers to help students file tax forms.
Free File Alliance
The Free File Alliance is a public-private partnership of the IRS and leading tax preparation/ online accounting services that provides free federal tax return filing to those who have an adjusted gross income of less than $72,000. More information including how to get started is available here on the IRS’ website.
Learning About the Concept of Income Taxes
Tax brackets are not as straight-forward as they seem on paper or in political debates. Vox offers a concise explanation of what tax brackets are and how they work. Money Coach also provides a good explanation of tax brackets although that explanation is longer with a bit more nuance.
If you teach high school students, some of them may be filing taxes (or having parents do it on their behalf) for the first time. Doing that can lead to all kinds of questions about why we have taxes, the way taxes are calculated, and types of taxes. Money Coach has two videos that do a good job of explaining why you have to file a tax return and how to do it.
Crash Course offers a video that explains the origins of income taxes and a general explanation of how money collected from income taxes is used.
Income tax lesson plans.
PBS Learning Media offers a free lesson plan through which students learn about reasons for taxes being withheld from paychecks, where the withholdings go, and why some people have more or less withheld than others. In addition to helping students understand taxes withheld from paychecks Taxes – Where Does Your Money Go? introduces students to concepts related to saving for retirements. To that end, the lesson plan includes a video about how a self-employed person handles budgeting for taxes and retirement.