Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The 1040 Form Turns 100: Resources To Explain Income Taxes

Source: Visual.ly
Who knew that paying income taxes had its centennial in 2013? Could it be that most adults would prefer not to remember? For that matter, how many of us realize that in 1913 the tax code was only 170 pages long, as opposed to 17,000 today? Exactly!

Well, in 1913, the 16th amendment was passed, giving Congress the right to impose a federal income tax. Students hear a lot about taxes, but most don’t understand just what “tax day” is, or for that matter what “income tax” really means. Since financial literacy is part of our history curriculum, it made perfect sense to include this topic as part of their learning.

Source: Turbo Tax
We took the opportunity to talk to our students and explain income tax withholdings and the reasons why United States citizens are required to pay them. Needless to say, they were quite surprised at how taxes are taken out of earnings, particularly as income graduates through the tax brackets. Of course, as the discussion progressed, the political opinions and remarks reflected the parental sensibilities of the students; but all in all, they were quite interested in the way the process works.

We began by watching The 100 Anniversary of the Income Tax video on the Tax History website produced by Tax Analysts. This generated lots of questions, particularly with regard to the percentages people were asked to pay at different points in history. Most knew that taxes have been around since civilizations began, but many did not understand how they exactly they worked. Boy, were they surprised.


It was worth taking a small divergent approach to include such an important aspect of our economy into our students' learning. It guaranteed that they were more aware of why "tax day" is not exactly a favorite on the calendar. With eyes wide open, they learned a lot more than they realized.

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