A sales tax is a tax levied on the purchases of good by consumers. Usually, it is levied at a single rate, rather than a graduated series of increasing rates, although different types of goods may be subject to different rates and some goods may be exempt entirely.
Sales taxes should be applied only to goods purchased by consumers, not by other businesses. For example, if a furniture-making company buys a quantity of lumber for use in manufacturing furniture, it should not have to pay any sales tax on the transaction.
A sales tax is very similar to a value added tax. The key difference is that a sales tax is charged only at the point of final sale of a product to the consumer while value added tax is charged at every stage of the business process when one business trades with another. The business may be entitled to a refund of what it pays other businesses in value added tax but the tax must be levied in the first place before the business applied for a refund to the government. For this reason, value added taxes tend to involve more record-keeping than sales taxes and to impose a significant bureaucratic burden.
Taxes represent a transfer of wealth from the citizens of a country to the ruling power of that country. As such, they have existed since ancient times. The Bible speaks of them and it is clear from the biblical text that tax collectors were generally reviled. Almost anything can be taxed and there are various ways in which taxes can be applied.
The first taxes of which we have a documentary record were applied in ancient Egypt. In ancient times, it is clear that taxpayers were expected to offer up a portion of the agricultural produce they raised from the land to the ruling power of the day.
As economies have evolved, governments and rulers have chosen to raise taxes in different ways. For a long time, many countries raised revenue primarily through taxing imports into the country. In modern times, the income tax, which is charged as a percentage of all income earned in a period of time has become the most popular method by which governments in developed countries raise revenue. Corporation tax, a tax charged as a percentage of the profits made by incorporated companies, is also significant. Many countries also have sales taxes, or value added taxes, which are charged as a percentage of the selling price of a product or service.
A wealth tax is a tax which is levied on the existing stock of assets an individual has. This is relatively unusual as most taxes are levied on the basis of income streams, such as income tax or corporation tax. Wealth taxes are fairly rare. They are by no means as widespread as other forms of taxation such as sales taxes or income taxes. Most developed countries do not have wealth taxes, although they may have a variant in the form of capitals gains taxes, which apply taxes to increases in the value of assets a person has rather than their static values.
In countries which do have wealth taxes, they tend not to raise a very high proportion of government revenue, leading many observers to conclude that they have been imposed for political rather than economic reasons, and are no more than expressions of egalitarian or even class warfare sentiment.
In countries which operate a wealth tax, individuals must report their own stock of assets and liabilities to the government, paying tax on the difference between the two, more commonly known as their net worth. Usually, there is a base threshold value for net worth, below which the wealth tax need not be paid, ensuring that it only affects people who are fairly well-off.
Consumer spending is a measure of the amount of money used by ordinary people to make purchases in an economy in a period of time. It is one of the most important drivers of a modern economy. Consumer spending is affected by a number of factors. In part, it is seasonal in nature. In Western economies, for example, consumer spending is far higher around Christmas time than at other times of the year. In part, it is affected by the levels of disposable income. Anything which changes the average level of disposable income will ultimately affect consumer spending. For example, if a government raises or lowers taxes, this will result in the ordinary person have more or less disposable income than before. This will shortly feed through to consumer spending levels in the economy. Similarly, a raising or lowering of the prevailing level of interest rates in the economy will affect disposable income through the level of monthly payments which will be required on debt products such as mortgages.
Most importantly, consumer spending is affected by the level of confidence which people have in the economy and in their own personal financial circumstances. In particular, the purchase of large ticket items, such as houses, cars, some white goods, will be swayed by current consumer confidence levels.
Accounting is the practice of keeping precise records of the income and expenditures of a business. It is a recognised profession, regulated in most countries by an industry association which offers training and certification to aspiring practitioners.
At the most basic level, accounting is necessary to determine whether the business is profitable or not. Although this may seem obvious, some businesses can be involved in so many transactions that it is not at all clear whether, on a net basis, a profit is being made. Precision in the keeping of accounts is also necessary for taxation purposes. In most countries, companies must pay a tax on any profits they make and are required to submit records periodically to the government detailing their income and expenditures. Many companies can also enjoy tax relief on certain kinds of expenditure, such as money spent on research or on business capital investment.
For anything other than a small business, keeping careful records of business activity, paying taxes in the appropriate amount and claiming any tax relief for which the company is eligible is a non-trivial activity which demands substantial knowledge and commitment. You can also hire professionals like Associated Tax relief for such a task.
Accounting standards vary from one country to another, making the comparison of, for example, company balance sheets not as simple as it might at first seem. There are moves to establish international accounting standards, eliminating this problem.
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