Sales Tax Lesson Plan for Elementary School

Instructor: Jennifer Lowery

Jennifer has taught elementary levels K-3 and has master's degrees in elementary education and curriculum/instruction and educational leadership.

Students may have heard about sales tax but may not understand how it works or why sales tax is collected. In this lesson plan, students will learn sales tax basics and participate in a fun role-playing activity.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • explain the concept of sales tax and why it is collected
  • describe how and why some states do not tax all items
  • learn the rate of sales tax for their state and calculate sales tax on certain items


  • 45 - 60 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Read, write, and compare decimals to thousandths.


Add, subtract, multiply, and divide decimals to hundredths, using concrete models or drawings and strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction.


  • copies of the Sales Tax Lesson for Kids and the printable worksheet, one copy of each per student
  • items to be used for 'purchase' during the role-playing scenario that can represent necessities and luxuries, with price tags and prices assigned before the lesson (Be sure to have some items priced closely to $5.00, so that after the tax is calculated the total price is slightly higher than $5.00)
  • play money ($5.00 for each student)
  • pencils and paper for students


  • Hold up one of the items to be used in the lesson, and show students the price tag.
    • Tell students that they have exactly the same amount of cash in their wallet as the price of this item. If they want to buy this item at the store, can they do so? (Assume that they are not willing to pay with a credit card or any other form of payment except the cash in their wallet.)
    • If they say yes, why do they think so? If their answer is no, why do they think they are unable to buy it?
  • If students do not conclude that sales tax would be added, then introduce the idea of sales tax by telling students that many states collect taxes on items sold.
    • Tell students that today, we will be learning how and why sales tax is collected.
  • Ask why do they think that states want to collect money on items that we buy?
  • Distribute copies of the lesson Sales Tax Lesson for Kids to students.
  • Have students read the lesson introduction and the section 'What is Sales Tax?' with a partner or group of three.
    • What is sales tax?
    • How do states use the sales taxes they collect?
  • Have students read the lesson section 'Why Isn't Everything Taxed?' with their group.
    • What is a luxury?
    • Which states do not charge a sales tax? How do you think they fund things like roads and schools if they do not charge sales tax?

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