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Value Added Tax

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Introduction

Value added tax (VAT), or goods and services tax (GST), is a consumption tax levied on value added. In contrast to sales tax, VAT is neutral with respect to the number of passages that there are between the producer and the final consumer; where sales tax is levied on total value at each stage, the result is a cascade (downstream taxes levied on upstream taxes).

Exports by definition, are consumed abroad and are usually not subject to VAT; VAT charged under such circumstances is usually refundable. This avoids downward pressure on exports and ultimately export derived revenue.

A VAT is an indirect tax, in that the tax is collected from someone who does not bear the entire cost of the tax.

VAT was invented by a French economist in 1954 as taxe sur la valeur ajoutée (TVA in French). Maurice Lauré, joint director of the French tax authority, the Direction générale des impôts, was first to introduce VAT with effect from 10 April 1954 for large businesses, and it was extended over time to all business sectors. In France, it is the most important source of state finance, accounting for approximately 45% of state revenues.

Personal end-consumers of products and services cannot recover VAT on purchases, but businesses are able to recover VAT on the materials and services that they buy to make further supplies or services directly or indirectly sold to end-users. In this way, the total tax levied at each stage in the economic chain of supply is a constant fraction of the value added by a business to its products, and most of the cost of collecting the tax is borne by business, rather than by the state. VAT was invented because very high sales taxes and tariffs encourage cheating and smuggling. It has been criticized on the grounds that (like other consumption taxes) it is a regressive tax.

Comparison with a Sales Tax

Value added taxation avoids the cascade effect of sales tax by only taxing the value added at each stage of production. Value added taxation has been gaining favour over traditional sales taxes worldwide. In principle, value added taxes apply to all commercial activities involving the production and distribution of goods and the provision of services. VAT is assessed and collected on the value added to goods in each business transaction. Under this concept the government is paid tax on the gross margin of each transaction. VAT proposes to replace
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