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Let’s talk about tax: young people’s view on the future of our tax system

Ellie Craig MSYP speaking at a lecturn at SYP77
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Tax can be confusing and complicated, but there is no denying that it has a significant impact on the lives of Scotland’s young people. A YouGov survey in 2021 found that just 27% of young people aged 18-24 said they understood the Scottish tax system. Despite this, around 40% of the Scottish Government’s budget this year is made up of taxes under the control of the Scottish Government. That means that many decisions made about tax are made here, in Scotland, and at the Scottish Youth Parliament, we believe young people should have a say all tax decisions that impact them.

For the meaningful participation of young people in decision-making, it is crucial that they are given all the information they need to come to an informed view on the topic. That was a key focus for me, the SYP staff team, and the Scottish Government tax unit when planning the ‘Let’s talk about tax’ consultation workshop in August this year. This video was shared with participants ahead of the workshop – both to help young people understand Scotland’s tax powers and to hear views on young people’s engagement with the Scottish Government’s current communications on tax.

A consultation workshop at SYP is a one-off event that gives decision-makers from Government, Parliament, or business the opportunity to consult a group of young people on a topic that affects them. At this workshop, MSYPs in attendance took part in a series of exercises to help them understand devolved taxes in Scotland and then gave their views on how Government can better communicate with young people to improve their understanding of the tax system. Participants also gave their views on why it was important for Scotland’s young people to understand how tax is raised and spent, and to understand what tax they will pay over their working lives.

Some of the views MSYPs shared include:

  • Awareness and information about tax often comes through informal routes, such as children and young people’s families, but not all children and young people have families that can support them to understand tax, so support must be targeted to those children and young people.
  • MSYPs felt that privacy was really important for young people who needed to be able to learn about taxes without necessarily being made to discuss their personal tax circumstances with their parents.
  • They said that all information shared with young people needs to be accessible and in language that is easy for all young people to understand.

I wrote this blog to make sure that the MSYPs that attended, and their constituents, understand what was said and what views were shared, which is a crucial part of meaningful participation that is too often missed. One of the attendees said:

The workshop was incredibly informative! It was great to have a crash course into how tax works in Scotland – and was very interesting to see how things will change moving forward!

Gavin Stewart MSYP

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