What is Tax?
A tax (from the Latin taxo) is a compulsory financial charge or some other type of levy imposed upon a taxpayer (an individual or legal entity) by a governmental organization in order to fund various public expenditures. A failure to pay, along with evasion of or resistance to taxation, is punishable by law. Taxes consist of direct or indirect taxes and may be paid in money or as its labour equivalent. The first known taxation took place in Ancient Egypt around 3000–2800 BC.
Most countries have a tax system in place to pay for public, common or agreed national needs and government functions. Some levy a flat percentage rate of taxation on personal annual income, but most scale taxes based on annual income amounts. Most countries charge a tax on an individual’s income as well as on corporate income. Countries or subunits often also impose wealth taxes, inheritance taxes, estate taxes, gift taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, payroll taxes or tariffs.
In economic terms, taxation transfers wealth from households or businesses to the government. This has effects which can both increase and reduce economic growth and economic welfare. Consequently, taxation is a highly debated topic.
The legal definition, and the economic definition of taxes differ in some ways such as economists do not regard many transfers to governments as taxes. For example, some transfers to the public sector are comparable to prices. Examples include, tuition at public universities, and fees for utilities provided by local governments. Governments also obtain resources by “creating” money and coins (for example, by printing bills and by minting coins), through voluntary gifts (for example, contributions to public universities and museums), by imposing penalties (such as traffic fines), by borrowing, and also by confiscating wealth. From the view of economists, a tax is a non-penal, yet compulsory transfer of resources from the private to the public sector, levied on a basis of predetermined criteria and without reference to specific benefit received.
In modern taxation systems, governments levy taxes in money; but in-kind and corvée taxation are characteristic of traditional or pre-capitalist states and their functional equivalents. The method of taxation and the government expenditure of taxes raised is often highly debated in politics and economics. Tax collection is performed by a government agency such as the Ghana Revenue Authority, Canada Revenue Agency, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the United States, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in the United Kingdom or Federal Tax Service in Russia. When taxes are not fully paid, the state may impose civil penalties (such as fines or forfeiture) or criminal penalties (such as incarceration) on the non-paying entity or individual.