Home Consumption Taxes Know the Types of Sales Taxes

Know the Types of Sales Taxes


Taxes are essential for the functioning of any government. They fund public services such as healthcare, education, infrastructure, and security. Sales taxes, particularly, are crucial to governments, as they are a significant source of revenue. Understanding the various types of sales taxes implemented worldwide is crucial to grasp how they impact businesses, consumers, and governments. In this article, we will explore the different sales tax types used globally, how they differ, and their respective impact.

Common Sales Tax Types

Before examining the various sales tax types, it is crucial to understand what sales tax is. Sales tax is a tax levied on the sale of goods and services at the point of purchase. It is usually a percentage of the transaction amount, and it is paid by the end consumer. Governments implement different types of sales taxes, and three common types include:

1. Value-added Tax (VAT)

The value-added tax (VAT) is a consumption tax levied on goods and services. It is a multi-stage tax that taxes the value added at each step of the supply chain. The tax is collected by businesses on behalf of the government and remitted to the relevant tax authority at regular intervals. VAT is prevalent worldwide, and over 160 countries use this tax system.

VAT operates on the premise that each participant in the supply chain pays tax on the value added to the goods or services. For instance, if a manufacturer purchases raw materials worth $100 and adds value worth $50 to the materials, then the VAT charged would be based on the $50 value addition. If the VAT rate is 10%, then the manufacturer would pay $5 in tax, computed as 10% of the $50 value added.

One advantage of VAT is that it is self-policing as businesses have to keep detailed records of transactions. VAT eliminates the cascading effect of taxes since businesses can claim back input VAT, which reduces the tax burden.

2. Sales and Use Tax

Sales and use tax is another multi-stage tax, levied at different stages of the supply chain, but it is not as prevalent as VAT. This tax type is mostly used in the United States. Sales tax legislation means that a retailer collects tax on goods or services sold to the final consumer. Use tax legislation levies tax on consumers who purchase goods used or consumed in states where the seller did not collect sales tax.

A sales tax transaction can occur at any point in the supply chain, while a use tax occurs at the final point of consumption. For example, if you buy a product online from a company that has no physical presence in your state, you may be liable for use tax.

In essence, sales and use tax is equivalent to VAT, except it is more complicated as it varies across states and municipalities in the US.

3. Excise tax

An excise tax is a tax levied on specific goods and services. It is sometimes referred to as a sin tax, as it targets products like cigarettes, alcohol, and gasoline, which are considered harmful to society. The tax rate applied to these goods and services is usually higher than those used for other taxes.

Excise taxes are also sometimes called ive taxes because they are levied ively on products deemed harmful. For example, the United States levies excise taxes on items such as firearms and ammunition, tobacco, and alcohol.

There are other types of excise taxes, such as communications taxes, which are imposed on phone and internet services. Governments usually use excise taxes as a policy tool to discourage consumption of harmful products and services while raising revenue.

How Sales Taxes Affect Businesses

Sales taxes have a direct impact on businesses, particularly retailers. Retailers are responsible for collecting and remitting taxes to the tax authority. Therefore, businesses must find ways to comply with tax regulations to avoid penalties, which can be significant.


Businesses must comply with tax regulations to avoid penalties and legal ramifications. They must ensure that they charge the appropriate tax rates, remit the correct amounts to the relevant authorities, and keep accurate records. Failing to do so can result in fines, prosecution, and damage to the business’s reputation.


Businesses must factor in taxes when pricing goods and services. Sales taxes can increase the price of goods and services, which affects consumers’ purchasing power. As a result, businesses must find ways to keep prices competitive while ensuring profitability.

Cross-border transactions

Sales taxes can be more complicated for businesses that conduct cross-border transactions. Import and export taxes, as well as VAT regulations, vary between different countries. Businesses must comply with these regulations to avoid penalties and legal issues.

Impact of Sales Taxes on Consumers

Sales taxes can affect consumers in several ways. Sales taxes can increase the prices of goods and services, reducing consumers’ purchasing power. Consumers must also navigate different sales tax regulations when making cross-border purchases. Additionally, consumers must understand the taxes on specific goods and services, as they vary across states and countries.

Price increases

Sales taxes can increase the price of goods and services, as businesses pass on taxes to the final consumer. Sales taxes can reduce consumers’ purchasing power, especially for those on a limited budget. Additionally, sales taxes are regressive, meaning they disproportionately affect low-income earners who spend a higher proportion of their income on goods and services.

Cross-border purchases

Consumers must navigate different sales tax regulations when making cross-border purchases. Sales taxes, import duties, and VAT regulations vary between countries, making it challenging for consumers to make informed decisions. Additionally, some countries impose higher taxes on specific products like luxury items, making them expensive for consumers.

Goods and services tax

Some countries, like Canada, have a goods and services tax (GST) that applies to most goods and services. GST is payable by the final consumer, meaning that the prices of goods and services include GST. GST reduces the need for businesses to navigate different sales tax regulations in different provinces.


Sales taxes are a crucial source of revenue for governments worldwide. While different countries apply various taxes, three common types are VAT, sales and use tax, and excise tax. These taxes have different impacts on businesses and consumers, and it is crucial that both parties understand how sales taxes work when making decisions. Businesses must comply with tax regulations, while consumers must navigate different sales tax regulations to make informed decisions.

There are dozens of types of sales tax. Not all types are currently imposed in the United States. However, members of the tax reform movement have proposed certain types of sales tax, such as the value added tax, as a means of replacing income tax. The movement asserts that sales taxes can be utilized to more fairly place the burden of taxes by an equal distribution of
taxes according to an individuals income.

Gross Receipt Tax:

The gross receipt tax is a tax paid by businesses after they have totaled their revenues. The revenue, or profit of a company, is totaled regardless of where the profit comes from. Once that total has been reached, the company is responsible for gross receipt taxes as a certain percentage of that profit, depending on the state’s tax laws. There are ten states that currently impose a gross receipts tax to businesses in those specific states. In each state, the gross receipts tax is accessed differently and may not apply to all businesses. Some states only impose the gross receipts tax on certain businesses, such as construction. Whereas other states impose a flat percentage rate tax on all profits of a company, no matter where the profit came from.

Excise Tax: 

Excise taxes are taxes paid on items based on a flat rate of the volume of an item being sold. For example, each state may have an excise tax on gasoline on a per gallon basis. In addition, each state may impose an excise tax on cigarettes on a per pack basis. Each state has the right to implement those taxes at the discretion of that state’s tax laws. For example, an excise tax on a gallon of gasoline will be different in each state. While one state may only charge a penny per gallon excise tax, another state may charge forty cents. In addition, gasoline has a federal excise tax which applies across the nation. The actual cost of gasoline is much lower that what consumers pay at the pump.

Use Tax: 

Use taxes are imposed on items used by a state resident, that purchased that item in another state and then brought that item to their state of residence. The use tax applies to those items when they are consumed, used or stored in a state other than the state it was purchased in. The most common use tax is the one applied to online purchases. Many times, items purchase online do not include a sales tax in the price of the item. Some states require that consumers voluntarily submit the tax. In other states, each taxpayer is assumed to have a certain use tax based on their salary. The use tax rate can be figured out by placing an individuals salary in the use tax bracket. There have been many lawsuits involving the use tax, such as those involving consumers that purchased cigarettes online. In most cases, the use tax is upheld an the taxpayer is required to pay that tax in addition to late fees and interest.

Value Added Tax: 

The Value added tax is placed at every level of the manufacturing of goods. As the products progresses towards its completion, the value added tax increases in proportion to the value that has been added to the product. Rather than a flat sales tax, the total tax burden is distributed throughout the manufacturing process. The final product generally incurs the highest tax, because It has had the most value added. Like many consumption taxes, the value added tax is involved in several controversies. The lower and middle classes still pay a higher percentage of their salary towards that tax. Any tax that is based on a flat percentage of price, or salary, tends to involve less money being spent by  the wealthy. Those that have larger salaries pay a lesser percentage of their salary toward taxes based on flat rates.

Fair tax: 

The Fair Tax Bill was a proposal in which all consumers would pay a tax on items purchased. The nationwide tax would be imposed at the point of sale. Percentage wise, the fairtax would have been equal to income tax. Each taxpayer would equally share the tax burden based on the purchase of consumer goods. In addition, taxpayers would be unable to avoid shouldering a fair portion of the tax burden. Tourists, and other non residents of the country, would also contribute a fair portion to the tax burden. Any individual that was free to enjoy any benefit funded through the national tax, would also be forced to make a fair contribution toward the tax that pays for those benefits.