It’s complicated, can feel irrelevant to students and is inarguably dry.
However, there are some that say dedicated financial literacy classes should be a mandatory part of the school curriculum.
Curtin University’s Annette Morgan is at the heart of a push for ACARA and the West Australian Government to introduce a compulsory financial literacy unit, centred on tax.
She says that students entering university are lacking even basic financial literacy.
“The consequences of that can be that they just don't understand their requirements from a tax point of view, they're just lodging income tax returns with no understanding of what they actually are doing,” she says.
“They don't have that concept of 'If I sold some shares or something, will I have to declare that as tax?’”
Morgan says that better financial literacy would also help young adults look out for their interests at work.
“It's the ability [to say] 'my employer might be taking advantage of me, not paying me superannuation', so understanding basic rules in regard to when super is paid and how it's paid, you actually understand what you're entitled to,” she says.
“It might also be filling [out] your tax declaration form ... it's a complex form asking you a number of questions, and if you don't know what you're actually doing, you could be saying 'no, I don't want the tax free threshold' and all of a sudden you're getting your wages and most of it's going into tax because you've ticked the wrong box.”
Morgan runs Curtin University’s Tax Clinic, a first-of-its-kind facility that helps students with their taxes.
“I think at the moment a lot of people think there's all these resources out there, they can find out, but they don't. So it's actually quite scary ... their lack of knowledge coming through the door from all levels is just mind blowing, I just wonder how some people actually have got on without the services of the Tax Clinic.”
Morgan, along with her Tax Clinic colleague Donovan Castelyn, has conducted a survey of commerce students at the uni to bolster her submission to ACARA.
The survey questioned students on what tax education, if any, they received at secondary school.
Confirming Morgan’s suspicions, 76 per cent of surveyed students reported receiving no information on tax whatsoever from their school.
Perhaps more surprisingly, a massive 93 per cent of respondents said that it would have been beneficial for them to have been educated about tax in secondary school.
Morgan and Castelyn are now working on a second survey, looking at students from across all disciplines at the university.
Morgan says that so far the results of the two surveys appear similar.
“What we've found from the data we've seen and collected is that they also have the very same views that other students in the previous study had,” she says.
“They're very similar results from two different cohorts of students. They also are very strongly of the belief that they should have learnt [about tax].”
Morgan hopes to run the surveys outside of Western Australia, to help build a national case for compulsory financial literacy classes.
“These kids who have left school are just saying 'we wanted to learn' and when you're asking them what you should impose on the future generations of school children they're saying 'teach them',” she says.
Morgan and Castelyn have until 2020 to finalise their submission to ACARA.