It is of course difficult to interest young people in this subject matter at all. And indeed who can blame them? One look at the word ‘tax’ is sufficient to send most of us into deep apathy.
But from the survey responses (with around 125 respondents to each question), we can offer some tentative conclusions about what young people know and think about tax.
Ignorance is bliss?
Unfortunately, when it comes to the tax system, one can very easily stray onto the wrong side of the law without even realising it. And we all know the old adage that ‘ignorance of the law is no excuse’.
In preparation for the real world, young people arguably do not receive enough financial education; and the tax system (in which term we also include tax credits and national insurance) is one area that most are ignorant of when they leave school, even though we all need to know about it.
For instance, the following comments were included in responses to the survey:
I know they are all highly important, but I don’t know any of the answers!!!’
I don’t understand tax or national insurance….you don’t get taught it in school and when you get an ‘adult job’ you are expected to understand it on your wage/pay slip.’
These are heartening comments in some respects, as it seems some young people are at least aware these are things they should take seriously.
Dispelling the myths
In some of the comments received, there was also an interest in trying to get across to young people why tax is levied and communicate the link between paying it and receiving benefits either in the form of benefits or public services. Comments included:
‘What’s in it for me’ knowing about tax makes sure you don’t pay too much and that the state can provide you with services.’
‘What is this tax that we pay going to?’
Overall, a review of the multiple choice answers to the survey suggests that young people are, unsurprisingly, ignorant of the basic workings of the tax system. They rated the following as the questions they would most like to have answered:
- What is tax and how does it work?
- What is National Insurance?
- How much tax do I have to pay?
- How do I check how much tax I am paying?
- How much National Insurance should I pay?
- I am starting work. Do I have to pay tax?
- How much can I earn without having to pay National Insurance?
- Is there a minimum wage I should be paid? What is it? Does it change depending on my age?
- All these tax forms – do I need to keep them? How long for?
- I am a student but plan to work in the summer. Do I have to pay tax on my summer job?
- I am a student but also working. I have heard that I can fill in a form so I don’t have to pay tax. Is this right?
LITRG will continue to work with the National Youth Agency to help provide some of the answers to these questions and press for change, through those in authority, who can help impart some of the messages to young people via the schooling system and other official channels.
Contact Name: Kelly Sizer (Tel: 0844 579 6700 Fax 0844 579 6701)