Should Children Have to Cover Sales Tax?


 

Hubby and I are both finance-types. Some people would attribute that to our backgrounds in banking, but I don’t really think that’s it. (The sad truth is that many folks in banking have some seriously messed up finances, themselves.) I think we both just really get numbers and appreciate that, as long as you’re doing your part, money does what you tell it to. That’s a lot more than you can say for many people. ;)

 

We understand money and, probably even more importantly, we don’t fight about it. We’ve had open discussions about budgeting and spread-sheets since well before we were married. I may have mentioned before that our pre-marriage counselors asked us to TEACH the week on financial harmony because they’d never seen a couple get such a high score of compatibility on the survey. We’re geeky.

“Daddy, I need some money to get my nails done!”

I’m guessing that’s part of why we talk to our kids about money a lot. By nature, we are raising a tight-wad saver, a wild spender, and a moderate balance. And that’s fine. We meet them where they’re at and talk to them about making their money work for them, but, at this point, we let them make “mistakes” too.

 

When the six-year-old wanted to spend all her six dollars on the fancy-pants unicorn coloring book? We told her she could find a coloring book for a dollar if she just waited until we were done in the schmancy toy store. But she didn’t want to wait. And so we let her. We also let her be a bit sad when her siblings still had money to spend later on.

 

Life lessons.

 

I think these lessons on how money works are important. I’ve been to college– I’ve seen how many kids have never had to manage a dime.

 

But here’s the lesson that’s throwing me a curve ball:

 

At what age should children be responsible for paying sales tax?

 

I’m really struggling with this one. On the one hand, my two older children are old enough to understand a very basic explanation about taxes. I wouldn’t necessarily feel “bad” expecting them to save up and pay for the tax on the things they buy– part of life, after all. I’ll go so far as to say that if we were still in Indiana, where tax was 5%, I’d definitely be having that conversation and setting up that expectation.

 

But we live in Connecticut. And our governor decided that a fabulous sales tax rate would be 6.35%. That’s some HARD math for a six-year-old.

 

What do you think? At what age do you expect your children to cover the sales tax on the things they choose to buy? Does it make a difference if the tax rate is bizarr-o like ours?

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13 comments to Should Children Have to Cover Sales Tax?

  • Keli

    My daughter (age 7) has been paying sales tax on things she wanted since she was three. When we figure out the amount needed for an item I calculate the sales tax for her and make that the total amount. It helps with a savings goal as well when she wants a bigger item.

    • For bigger items, I think this would work well for my littles. It’s the silly couple things at the dollar store that trip them up– particularly since a toy will have tax, but the animal crackers won’t. :)

  • Susan

    In Los Angeles, our sales tax is 9.75% which is substantial. I talk about it with my 11 year old (round to 10%, how much extra will this item cost you?) but I don’t generally make him pay it. It’s hard enough for him to save up for what he really wants and at age 11, it’s mostly expensive electronic stuff. I think the major point is to get kids to save and delay gratification.

  • Mama Owl

    When they start asking for things! We taught our daughter about tax from the get-go. It’s part of the purchasing process. We didn’t even think about “when”, it just seemed natural and part of the deal. There was no “sticker shock syndrome” or “coming up short” at the cash register. She will not have any problems understanding later when she buys bigger items, either. Just my 2 cents…

    • I do think it’s an important lesson to introduce at a young age. I guess maybe I just need to let them round up and try it that way? There’s just no way my 3 & 6 yo’s will be able to calculate that silly 6.35… :)

      • Mama Owl

        We didn’t have her “calculate” it at a young age. We did that for her. But, she knew that there would be tax and would have to have more than the sticker price. When she got a little older and could do simple math, we had her round the numbers to an easier number to use. I still use that method… it is quicker and just as good, imo anyway.

  • Kathy

    We are still covering tax, kinda. If an item is $8.50 and they have $9. We make them give the $9 and cover the rest. We are in Indiana and tax is now 7%.

  • Tiffany R

    My kids have always paid tax themselves. I think it is important for them to learn that paying tax is part of buying an item. We just estimate what the amount will be to make sure they have enough to cover it. There are times when they have to make a different choice so that they have enough money to cover taxes. That is just a part of life.

  • Elizabeth

    I don’t have kids yet, but I just wanted to note that here in Indiana, the sales tax was raised a couple of years ago and is now 7%. It still makes me cringe!

  • Once they start school and are actually doing the paying and saving for real, not pretending and us covering things then they start paying tax. I always bring up the tax. if we are at home and they say they have $4 saved and want to go buy xxx that cost $4 I bring up the tax. At the store I remind them of the tax. We do our best to estimate. If they get to the register and are short a bit I will cover it. They don’t like the sales tax!

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