Taxing Consumption and Other Sins

38 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2006 Last revised: 3 May 2007

Date Written: December 2006

Abstract

Throughout American history, the U.S. federal and state governments have imposed excise taxes on commodities such as alcohol and tobacco (and more recently, gasoline and firearms). Rates of such "sin" taxation, and consumption taxation broadly (including sales taxes and value-added taxes), are currently much lower in the United States than they are in Europe, Japan, and other affluent parts of the world. In part, this reflects relative government sizes, but that is not the whole story, since even controlling for total tax collections, levels of national income, government decentralization, and openness to international trade, the United States imposes unusually low excise and consumption taxes. As a result, the United States relies to a much greater degree than other countries on personal and corporate income taxes, thereby affording fewer opportunities to use the tax system to protect individuals and the environment by discouraging the consumption of "sinful" commodities, and instead simply discouraging saving and investment.

Suggested Citation

Hines, James Rodger, Taxing Consumption and Other Sins (December 2006). NBER Working Paper No. w12730. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=948192

James Rodger Hines (Contact Author)

University of Michigan ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States

NBER

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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