Home Consumption Taxes A Complete Guide to Consumption Taxes

A Complete Guide to Consumption Taxes

A Complete Guide to Consumption Taxes

Taxes are an inevitable part of modern living, but most people don’t fully understand the different types of taxes they pay. One of the most common types of taxes is the consumption tax. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at consumption taxes, how they work, and their pros and cons.

What is a Consumption Tax?

A consumption tax is a type of tax that is levied on goods and services at the point of sale. Unlike income taxes, which are based on the money a person earns, consumption taxes are based on what a person spends. In other words, if you buy something, you pay a tax on that purchase.

Consumption taxes come in many forms. For example, state and local governments in the US can impose sales taxes on goods and services sold within their borders. Value-added taxes (VATs) are another type of consumption tax that is commonly used in other countries. These taxes are levied at each stage of production and distribution, often resulting in a higher tax rate than a sales tax.

The Pros of Consumption Taxes

So, why do governments use consumption taxes? There are several reasons.

First, consumption taxes are straightforward and easy to administer. Unlike income taxes, where people can use various strategies to reduce their tax burden, consumption taxes are levied at the point of sale. There’s no need to track a person’s income or deductions.

Second, consumption taxes discourage certain types of behavior. For example, higher taxes on tobacco and alcohol can discourage people from smoking or drinking excessively. Similarly, a tax on gasoline can encourage people to buy more fuel-efficient cars or use public transportation.

Third, consumption taxes can be used to raise revenue without negatively impacting economic growth. When income taxes are raised, people may reduce their work hours or look for ways to shelter their income. This can result in a decrease in economic output. Consumption taxes, on the other hand, don’t discourage work or saving – people will still need to buy goods and services, regardless of the tax rate.

The Cons of Consumption Taxes

However, there are also several drawbacks to consumption taxes.

First, consumption taxes can be regressive. Because everyone pays the same tax rate, regardless of their income, lower-income people may feel the effects of a consumption tax more than higher-income people. This can exacerbate income inequality.

Second, consumption taxes can be hard on certain industries. For example, if a government imposes a high tax on a particular good or service, it can make it more expensive and less competitive. This can hurt businesses that rely on that industry and the wider economy.

Finally, consumption taxes can be complex. VATs, for example, can be difficult to implement and can have unintended consequences. For example, because VATs are levied at each stage of production, they can incentivize businesses to operate in cash to avoid the tax. This can create a black market and can be difficult to regulate.

Types of Consumption Taxes

As mentioned earlier, there are several different types of consumption taxes.

Sales Taxes

The most common type of consumption tax is the sales tax. This is a tax that is levied on goods and services at the point of sale. In the US, sales taxes are imposed by state and local governments and can vary widely depending on where you live. For example, the sales tax in California is currently 7.25%, while in New York City it’s 8.875%.


Value-added taxes (VATs) are another type of consumption tax that is commonly used in other countries. VATs are levied at each stage of production and distribution, resulting in a tax rate that is generally higher than a sales tax. For example, if a manufacturer sells goods to a distributor, they may pay a VAT on that sale. When the distributor sells those goods to a retailer, they will pay another VAT, and so on. The final price of the goods will include the cumulative VAT paid at each stage of production and distribution.

Excise Taxes

Excise taxes are taxes that are imposed on certain types of goods or services. For example, the US government imposes excise taxes on gasoline, tobacco, and alcohol. These taxes can be used to discourage certain types of behavior or to raise revenue.

Import Taxes

Import taxes, also known as tariffs, are taxes that are imposed on goods that are imported into a country. These taxes can be used to protect domestic industries or to generate revenue.

Inheritance Taxes

Inheritance taxes are taxes that are levied on the assets of a deceased person. These taxes are not technically a consumption tax because they are not levied on goods and services. However, they are included here because they are a type of tax that is based on consumption – the assets that are subject to the tax were purchased using income that was already taxed.

The Future of Consumption Taxes

Consumption taxes are likely to continue to play a significant role in government revenue for the foreseeable future. As governments around the world struggle to balance their budgets, they may turn to consumption taxes as a way to raise revenue without negatively impacting economic growth.

However, it’s important to note that consumption taxes can have unintended consequences. For example, if a government imposes a high tax on a particular good or service, it can make it more expensive and less competitive. This can hurt businesses that rely on that industry and the wider economy. Additionally, higher taxes on certain types of goods or services can be regressive, as lower-income people may feel the effects of the tax more than higher-income people.


Consumption taxes are a critical part of modern taxation. They are used to raise revenue, discourage certain types of behavior, and are straightforward to administer. However, they can also be regressive and can have unintended consequences. As governments around the world continue to grapple with budget deficits, they will need to consider how to use consumption taxes in a way that is fair and effective.

Those items are usually goods and services provided for consumers. Unlike income tax, consumption taxes are indirect because they are not contingent on a persons income. In fact, consumers have a decision about which products to buy, and they do not have to pay taxes on items that they do not buy. The amount of a consumption tax, is dependant on the products that a specific consumer buys. So a consumption tax is based on what an taxpayer spends, rather than on what they earn.

Tax reform advocates often argue in favor of consumption taxes being used as a replacement for income taxes. If that were to happen, consumers would be encouraged to take part in savings plans and investments. Consumption taxes would not include any taxes on savings accounts, investment accounts or the sale of stocks and bonds. However, consumption taxes can actually be biased based on a persons salary. For example, a middle class consumer that makes a purchase of a similar value, when compared to a purchase by a wealthy individual, is shouldering a higher tax burden.

Flat rate consumption taxes force those that make a lower salary, to pay a higher percentage of their salary toward taxes on a purchase that incur a lower percentage tax for a wealthy person. In order to offset that difference, it has been proposed that higher end items should incur a larger percentage of consumption tax. A wealthy consumer, for instance, would be more likely to purchase a luxury vehicle. If a middle class consumer were to purchase a mini van, the taxes would be lower than those imposed on a luxury vehicle because taxes should be imposed as a percentage of someone’s salary, no matter how the taxes are actually imposed.


Consumption taxes are taxes place on certain goods and services. There are many types of consumption taxes and some items may incur more than one type of consumption tax. For example, a boat being manufactured may have each part taxed before the boat is assembled. In addition, the paint and other items necessary to complete the boat, would also likely be taxed. Finally, the sale of the boat would be taxed. All of those taxes are considered consumption taxes. Consumption taxes have historically been utilized to increase tax revenue within each separate tax jurisdiction. The Constitution gives each state the right to impose state taxes at the discretion of each state’s individual tax laws.  Therefore, consumers in each state likely pay a different percentage of sales tax, if they are required to pay any at all. Consumption taxes can also be imposed at the federal level. For example, an excise tax on alcohol can be imposed by the federal and each state’s government.

Sales Tax: 

Sales taxes are a tax that is imposed on the purchase of most consumer goods and some services. There can be both a state and federal sales tax on any one item. For example, gasoline often has both a state sales tax and a federal sales tax associated with it and each tax in imposed on a per gallon basis. In addition to that excise tax, many states opt to add other types of sales taxes to the price of each gallon of gasoline.

There are many sales taxes that are imposed before a product even reaches the consumer. For example, the gross receipts tax is a tax imposed on businesses based on their total profit. An estimate of that tax may be imposed as an added cost on a product, as a part of the price, before that product reaches the consumer. Generally, consumers only see their regular state sales tax as a separate line item on receipts. It is likely that all other sales taxes were included in the cost of each specific item before the consumer paid for that item.


Sales taxes have been utilized within many jurisdictions in order to increase revenue. There are may types of sales tax and each jurisdiction may impose different types of sales taxes and at different rates. The Constitution allows each state to determine what percentage of sales tax, if any, that it imposes on goods and services. There are some states that do not impose a direct sales tax on items sold within that state. If however, a person that is not a resident of that state were to purchase an item and bring it back to their state, they would be subject to a use tax.

The use tax is a sales tax that would be imposed on that item by the state of residency, but only if that item is normally taxed in that state. Each state can make separate determinations on which types of sales taxes are imposed on taxpayers in that state. However, every taxpayer is subject to federal sales taxes, when they apply. While a state may not impose an excise tax on gasoline, the federal government does and residents of every state are required to pay that tax, regardless of their state’s tax law.


There are at least ten types of sales tax and most of them are utilized in the United States, depending on each jurisdiction’s sales tax law. Federal sales taxes are imposed in every state, according to federal sales tax law. However, each state has the power to impose sales tax at their discretion, according to that states sales tax laws. In fact, some states do not impose any sales tax. Whereas, other states impose sales tax on the purchase of any item, at every stage of manufacturing.

Often the taxes imposed on items during the manufacturing phase, are added to the cost of an item. Frequently, consumers pay a sales tax when they purchase an item, but they also pay other taxes that have already been added to the price of that item. In essence, consumers are sometimes paying sales tax on top of sales tax. Profit from items that are resold after they have been purchased, are also subject to taxes. Those taxes may be paid under a capital gain tax, or a variety of other taxes depending on the surrounding circumstances.

Sales taxes are consumption taxes. Gross receipt taxes are taxes paid on the profit of a company. Generally speaking, the company will have included that tax in the sale of their items. The purchase price of goods and services,  often includes a companies estimated tax burden, as a part of the cost of that product. Excise tax may also be imposed upon certain products, such as gasoline. Excise taxes can be assessed as apart of a sales tax on a federal and state level as long as it is compliance with sales tax law.

In fact, local municipalities may also impose an excise tax. The total excise tax placed on an item could total as much as fifty percent after that tax has been imposed by all municipalities. In addition, consumers must pay a use tax if they purchase an item in state other than the one in which they reside. The use tax only applies to items that are taxed within an individuals state of residence. For example, a resident of New Jersey does not have to pay a use tax on jeans purchases in New york because New Jersey does not tax clothing in their sales tax laws.

However, if  a resident of New Jersey were to purchase cigarettes in Pennsylvania, those cigarettes are subject to use tax because cigarettes are taxed by New Jersey. A fairtax is a tax that is meant to eliminate the need for many other taxes. Like the value added tax, the fairtax is meant to tax consumers at the point of purchase. These taxes are proposed to be a replacement of income taxes, by the tax reform movement.