Tic Tac Taxes!


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guy State, federal, sales, property -- taxes taxes taxes! Why do we pay taxes? Why do we pay so many kinds of taxes, and what is the benefit to us? What are the goods and services that the government provides for us? How does the government pay for those goods and services? This lesson will take you through the different types of taxes governments impose, and the goods and services the governments provide in return.



You will identify and describe the need for taxation at three different government levels (federal, state, and local) and the three kinds of taxes that pay for services. You will describe the basic structure and purpose of each tax (income, sales, and property).


Our governments, at all levels, provide us with goods and services that are sometimes more difficult for companies or individuals to provide. A paving company wouldn't be able to charge individual drivers for the roads it creates. A hospital can't collect from people who can't afford to pay. Governments have a role in our society to provide some of these goods and services on behalf of all citizens. But governments have to pay to get the job done! Those costs are called expenditures. The government doesn't have its own paving company, and even if it did, it would have to pay the people who work there! How do governments pay for the goods and services they provide? They pay for these things through a system of taxation, to gain necessary revenues.

Activity One:
Name some goods and services that are provided by the government. Brainstorm a list of these items with a group of classmates.

* Why do governments need to provide these services?

Activity Two:
Use "The Economics of Taxation " page provided by the U.S. Department of The Treasury to find out more about the kinds of taxes governments impose, and the goods or services they provide.

* Which of the goods and services you named are provided by the federal moneygovernment, which are provided by the state government, and which by the local government? What can you add to your list?

Use this Activity Sheet or create a three-column chart to place the goods and services where they belong. If a good or service is provided by more than one government, place it in both columns.

Activity Three:
How does each level of government get the money or revenue it needs to be able to provide the goods and services you have listed? Taxation is the primary revenue generator for our governments. There are three main kinds of taxes:

  • Income Tax
  • Sales Tax
  • Property Tax

Work with a partner to define each type of tax. Go back to the activity sheet and add each tax to the appropriate column in the revenues section. Use "Primary Source" and "Other" distinctions to show which levels of government gain most from each type of tax. Refer back to the "Economics of Taxation " page to help you be as specific as possible.


calenderDiscuss with your class the types of taxes you learned about today. What kinds of services or goods does each one help our governments provide? Which level of government provides the opportunity to go to school? Where do roads and highways come from?

The governments we support through our taxes provide valuable services. Do you think the tax structures you have studied today make sense? Do you have other ideas about how the government should pay for the services it provides? If you do, you may wish to submit your ideas to your local, state, or federal representatives. Taxation is a big deal -- and everyone's ideas should be represented. But everyone must understand the basics of taxes and government roles in order to be represented well.


Work with a partner to play the Tic Tac Taxes Game. Be careful! You'll need to draw on the ideas you learned about today to win the squares!


Visit the IRS resource for kids called IRS Tax(i) History . At this site you can learn about taxation throughout history. You can work on this independently or with a partner. Complete the follow-up activities for each section to be sure you are getting the most out of your adventures.