Taxation in American States and Cities

By Richard T. Ely | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI.
DIRECT AND INDIRECT TAXATION COMPARED.1

INDIRECT TAXES ARE CHIEFLY TAXES ON COMMODITIES.

INDIRECT taxes are for the most part taxes on commodities; in other words, on what we eat and wear and consume in other ways, or on raw materials and implements used in manufacturing goods for purposes of consumption. They are called indirect taxes because they are usually paid in the first instance by one person and shifted by him to another. The importer of salt, sugar, and coal pays taxes on these commodities when they enter the territory of the United States, adds them to the price of his commodities, sells them to some one else, perhaps a wholesale dealer, who in turn disposes of them to a retailer, having added the tax and a profit on the money which he advanced in payment of the tax. The retailer finally sells them to you and me, but by this time the tax has been turned over several times, and has grown like a snowball rolling down hill. To the retailer the tax has become an indistinguishable part of the price which he pays, and on which he must derive a profit from us, the consumers. Thus indirect taxes roll up, and roll up every time one person shifts them upon another, until finally the augmented burden rests upon the shoulder of the real tax-payer. An indirect tax is thus a tax which

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1
It is proper to say that a considerable portion of this chapter has already appeared in the Baltimore Sun as an article in my series entitled "Problems of To-day."

-79-

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