Government to tax learners with “failure fee”

The government is set to tax learners with a “failure fee” in the next budget.

Today, a source close to the Minister of Education announced that the Department intends to tax the corporate sector through a levy on incorrectly answered questions in e-learning evaluations in an effort to generate money for the public purse as the Irish economy recovers from the Global Financial Crisis.

When questioned further the government source – who did not want to be named for national security reasons – elaborated on this plan, by saying that:

The e-learning sector in Ireland is doing really well, despite the downturn. There are lots of people out there using courseware over and over again, basically for free once they pay for it. We are looking for a way to continue to generate revenue from people every time they use a piece of e-learning. After consulting with experts, we have developed a bold and innovative approach to do this: we are going to charge learners a fee when they answer test questions incorrectly.

The government have already cut primary teacher numbers (making the student-to-teacher ratio the highest in Western Europe), and re-introduced third-level fees for the less well-off. The source continued:

We are working with a number of prominent Irish e-learning providers to mandate that an extra piece of code called Reactive User Scoring Expensing (RUSE) will be embedded in all e-learning content that will require the learner – or their company – to sign up with PayPal and the Department of Revenue so that they can be automatically charged a “failure fee” of one cent every time they answer a question wrong.

We are also collaborating with organizations like ADL/SCORM to add a new field to IMS manifest files to help us track this levy, so that when a user submits their test, the data is sent to our database. There seems to be a concern at EU level that this affects Irish citizens’ privacy and human rights, but in these tough times we have to put aside such selfish ideas and think of the greater good of the nation.

The senior civil servant elaborated:

This has been incorrectly called a stealth tax. It’s not. We want everyone to know about it. We see this as an opportunity to monetize a previously untouched area of education, and a great way to motivate people to study even harder and answer questions correctly during and after training courses.

Frankly, if people are too stupid to get the answers right, they’re too thick to be in a job. We think that we’re doing companies a favor by letting them know how many eejits they have in their midst, which is keeping people with real skills out of employment. Based on current worker fail rates, this scheme will also net us about €6 million in the first year, which is a real sweet deal.

An opposition spokesperson stated that

this is typical of the gombeen-man ignorance in this government: everyone knows that this will fall flat on its face, just like the debacle over water charges. I don’t know, sometimes I just despair of this crowd of wasters. They are truly unfit to hold public office in a modern democracy.

Industry insiders speculate that a move by the government to implement this program, called the Finance Act for Knowledge and Education – or FAKE – will lead to an increase in ‘unsupervised education’ and dangerous ‘free-form learning’ taking place ‘off the grid.’

One particularly gloomy respondent considered that Ireland would see a resurgence of the ‘hedge-schools’ which emerged during the Penal Laws in the 19th Century. What’s worse, it’s the kind of “innovation” that governments internationally will see as a legitimate source of tax revenue fill the state’s coffers as we head into the general election ahead.

If you want to help stop this disaster, please e-mail the Secretary of the Department for Education. Contact Ms. Avril O’Fol at with the e-mail header “Stop the madness.”

It’s important that you do this today, the first of April 2015, or it will be too late.

Thank you.



A Gombeen Man is a pejorative Hiberno-English term used in Ireland for a shady, small-time “wheeler-dealer” or businessman who is always looking to make a quick profit, often at someone else’s expense or through the acceptance of bribes.

An eejit is similarly an offensive term used in Ireland that deliberately insults somebody’s intelligence or foresight. An idiot.

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April 01 2015 05:00 am | e-learning

2 Responses to “Government to tax learners with “failure fee””

  1. Mark Melia on 02 Apr 2009 at 12:22 pm #

    That was a good one Michael. You had me going until about the 3rd paragraph. Did you see the one in the Irish Times yesterday on tagging tax exiles, that even fooled some of our TDs!

  2. Michael Hanley on 02 Apr 2009 at 2:06 pm #

    Hi Mark,
    Glad you got a chuckle out of the post. I did see the ‘tax exiles tagging’ article in The Times – it fooled quite a few people here in the office too.

    I have to say though, that Terry Jones ‘Flying Penguin’ gag from last year has to be my favourite: