PC with your P45, but no politics

19th May 1995 at 01:00
Martyn Cornell evaluates the Revenue's PAYE starter kit. Menacing young street robbers who specialise in stealing fashionable items of clothing from their more affluent peers refer to their trade as "taxing".

The similarities and differences between this and the Chancellor of the Exchequer's tax regime would form the basis of an interesting classroom discussion in a personal and social education lesson.

Paying protection money to a gangster is just the same as paying income tax, in that the result of not paying upon demand is likely to be unpleasant in both cases: discuss.

This is, unsurprisingly, not one of the issues discussed by the Inland Revenue's fact pack, Income Tax and Young People. Understandably, the Revenue stays right away from anything contentious or political.

It points out that even schoolchildren pay tax, since VAT is imposed on many of the items they buy in shops. It lists all the places tax expenditure goes, from the National Health Service to defence to grants to local authorities (the last of which, of course, includes the money spent on education). But it fails to add that tax as a proportion of gross domestic product in the UK rose from less than 35 per cent in 1965 to more than 40 per cent by 1991, despite a fall in the income tax rate over that period - so, with the rise in VAT, the tax burden could be said to be falling even more heavily on students and other non-income tax payers.

However, the prime aim of the pack is to introduce students to the PAYE system which, as the teachers' notes say, "will affect most if not all of them, when they start work".

The photocopiable materials include an unfrightening look at the forms school-leavers will come across. These include the P46, to be filled in when starting a first regular job, the P45 (perhaps the best-known form in Britain, though its associations with "the sack" are unfair to a document which is actually meant to help you transfer between employers), the P2 and P3(T), which cover tax code and allowances, and the P60.

In all, this is a useful tool to broach an area that, as Benjamin Franklin said, is beaten only by death in its inevitability.

A couple of worksheets include an "imagine-you-are-the-Chancellor" exercise, which asks students to work out different ways of funding a specific increase in Government spending, and two case studies in which students calculate the tax payable by four workers. These, incidentally, have hyper-politically-correct names - Sally and Ramesh, Jane and Avtar. Whatever happened to Darren and Geeta?

The pack and associated materials are free from the Inland Revenue Education Service, PO Box l0, Wetherby, West Yorkshire LS23 7EH. A video, price Pounds 5, is available from the same address.

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