Irish Government to tax learners with “failure fee”

The Irish government is set to tax learners with a “failure fee” in the next budget, it was revealed today.

A source close to the Minister of Education announced that the Department intends to tax the education sector through a levy on incorrectly answered questions in e-learning evaluations. The initiative is an effort to generate money for the public purse as the Irish economy recovers from Storm Emma, and Son of the Beast from the East, which were #TheWorstWeatherAnywhereEverOMG.

Students in failure fee row

And of course, y’know, because Brexit.

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

The e-learning sector in Ireland is doing really well. There are lots of students 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 rejected cloud-based subscription models, and developed a bold and innovative approach to do this: we are going to charge learners a fee when they answer exam and test questions incorrectly.

The Irish government has already cut primary teacher numbers (making the student-to-teacher ratio the highest in Western Europe), shortened the school year (longest holidays in the EU) 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. It will require the learner – or their company or school – to sign up with an web-based payment system and the Department of Revenue’s Online Service so that they can be automatically charged a “failure fee” of €1 every time they answer a question wrong.

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

The senior civil servant elaborated:

This initiative 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 schools and companies a favour 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 fail rates, this scheme will also net us about €60 million in the first year alone, which is a real sweet deal.

On the opposition benches, a spokesperson responded, saying

this is typical of the gombeen-man ignorance in this government: everyone knows that this will fall flat on its face, just like that 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 (FAKE), will lead to an increase in ‘unsupervised education’ and dangerous ‘free-form learning’ taking place ‘off the grid.’

One particularly gloomy correspondent considered that Ireland would see a resurgence of the ‘hedge-schools’ which emerged during the Penal Law Era in 19th Century Ireland. What’s worse, it’s the kind of “innovation” that governments internationally will see as a legitimate source of tax revenue as they see Ireland fill the state’s coffers at the expense of those who simply want to learn, despite being a bit dim.

If you want to help stop this almost believable proposal going ahead, please e-mail the Secretary in Office for the Finance Act for Knowledge and Education (SOFAKE for short) at the Department.

Contact Ms. Avril O’Fol at afool@sofake.govie with the e-mail header “Think of the children. And my wallet.”

It’s important that you do this today, April 1st, 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 fool.