July 26, 2012
HM Revenue and Customs, the UK government’s tax and customs department, has been accused of encouraging schoolkids to report tax evaders in their local area.
The allegation relates to a document available on the HMRC website, used as a ‘Citizenship’ module in schools to teach kids why they should become responsible taxpayers.
Page 2 of the Key Stage 4 lesson plan, designed for use by 14 to 16 year olds, involves a classroom discussion in which students debate “whether it is good to pay the tax we do, considering the benefits we receive. If it is good, then why do people try not to pay?”
The teacher must then ask what students “think of those who refuse to pay tax or try and defraud the benefits system? Can they think of any example they may have heard of in their local area?”
The independent thinktank Civitas, an institute for the study of civil society, has described the lesson as reminiscent of George Orwell’s novel 1984, in which kids snoop on their parents and report them to Big Brother. Civitas’ David Green said, “People ‘in their local area’ are most likely to be parents or close relatives. Turning children into state spies is un-British.”
In a blog for The London Telegraph, Rev Dr Peter Mullen describes how the story reminds him of an experience he had in Prague, Czechoslovakia, a year after the fall of Communism in 1989.
Rev Mullen recounts a local hotel proprietress describing how, during the Communist dictatorship, teachers would try and get schoolchildren to inform on their parents by asking questions such as, “Did your parents have anyone to dinner last night? Do you know who they were? What did they talk about?”
He concludes by warning:
Spying, snooping and informing on your neighbours are the institutionalised paranoia which is the natural accompaniment of totalitarianism. That’s the way we’re going in the EU in general and in Britain in particular: Eastern Europe pre-1989.
HMRC has dismissed the accusations, saying that “We certainly don’t use this to collect information on tax evaders from children. These materials are solely designed to help children to learn about how tax works in Britain.”
The controversy comes in the same week that Treasury minister David Gauke described paying for services ‘cash in hand’ as “morally wrong” – despite leading politicians, including prime minister David Cameron, admitting to having made cash payments to tradesmen.
This article was posted: Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 8:03 am