Tax Time!


Bill Bliss
Bill Bliss

Tax Time!

Here are three quotes appropriate for the month of April:

"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."

"Why did the colonists fight the British?  Because of high taxes – taxation without representation."

"When is the last day you can send in federal income tax forms?  April 15."

The first was penned by Benjamin Franklin in 1789. The second and third are among the 100 official questions and answers on the US citizenship exam.


Tax Tips

Filling out tax forms always seems to occupy too much time – and often it’s our evening time in April that we might otherwise be devoting to lesson preparation, correcting student homework, or other professional work. So in the spirit of helping you get through tax season, here are some tips to ease your lesson planning on those days you’re slogging through your 1040 form. I hope you find these helpful whether you are preparing students for the citizenship exam or you are incorporating civics topics into general EL/Civics instruction.


1.  Levels of Government and Taxes

Page 81One of the most important civics topics covered in the revised citizenship exam is the distinction between powers that belong to the different levels of government. This is the focus of Voices of Freedom pages 80–81, and it is an excellent context for students to consider the taxes in their lives. Here are some of the questions you can pose:

If you receive a paycheck, what taxes are deducted from your pay? Federal taxes? state taxes? local taxes? social security taxes? Medicare taxes?

Where does this tax money go?

What does it pay for?


2.  "Federal, State, or Local?" Game

Have students work in small groups to decide which level of government is responsible for each of the following functions and how they are paid for (taxes? fees?):

a.  Driver’s licenses

b.  Garbage collection

c.  Public schools

d.  Social Security payments

e.  Street cleaning

f.  Passports

g.  Marriage licenses

Groups can present their ideas to the class and determine which group has identified the most functions correctly.


3.  Taxes Scavenger Hunt

Taxes are everywhere! Have students bring to class as many examples as they can find in the community and in daily life. These might include store receipts, pay stubs, and smartphone photos they take of tax prep service locations, highway signs (“Your tax dollars at work”), protest signs (“No new taxes”), and other real-life examples. Have students share in pairs or small groups and then present to the class.


4.  Taxes and Consumer Awareness

Without presuming to offer specific advice, you may want to offer students the opportunity to share experiences and problems related to taxes. Some of the issues that often come up in student discussions include:

What is this W-2 or 1099 tax form that I received from my employer?

Too much tax was taken out of my paycheck. How do I get a refund?

Did I pay too much to the storefront tax prep service I used, and why did they charge me so much for an “instant refund”?


Have fun (if that’s possible) integrating any of these tax-related activities into your instruction, and good luck meeting that April 15 deadline!


Publisher’s Note: 

The Voices of Freedom program has helped hundreds of thousands of students on their path to United States citizenship. The Student Book is newly-updated to provide communication practice based on the new N-400 citizenship application form. The new Voices of Freedom Activity & Test Prep Workbook features essential reading and writing practice for the citizenship exam, flash cards to help students master key interview questions, and practice tests. 

New EL/Civics Packages integrate language instruction, civics, and basic skills to meet federal EL/Civics guidelines. Both packages include the Voices of Freedom Student Book and Workbook. The Foundations EL/Civics Package (ISBN 978-0-13-324814-2) also includes the Foundations Student Book and the Word by Word Basic Picture Dictionary. The Beginning EL/Civics Package (ISBN 978-0-13-324813-5) also includes the Side by Side Plus Level 1 Student Book and the Word by Word Picture Dictionary.