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The government levies discriminatory taxes on industries, goods and services in the form of excise taxes, which increase consumers’ costs on top of other business or sales tax already built into the price of a product.
The levying of excise taxes is one of the ways government attempts to undermine the free choice of consumers, applying a heavy tax burden to goods whose use it wishes to discourage. These excise taxes are traditionally known as “sin taxes” as they are justified by lawmakers as an effort to manipulate consumer behavior. Traditionally, the tobacco and alcohol industries have been targeted with excessive taxes, but soon other ubiquitous products, such as salt, sugar and bottled water, may face the same kind of discrimination.
Similarly, the government targets popular services to pad its coffers, levying excessive and discriminatory taxes on amenities such as airfare, hotel stays, car rentals and meals out. In most cases, the cost of government makes up half the price of these universal services.
In addition, the oil and gas and transportation industries are burdened by disparate excise taxes on fuel, with different taxes levied on aviation fuel and diesel fuel. In addition, consumers feel pain at the pump from the federal gasoline excise tax, as well as gas taxes applied by states.
The Cost of Government Center publishes an annual calculation of the tax “bite” taken by government in the form of multiple layers of hidden taxes on popular products and services. This shows how excise taxes increase the costs of a good, as well as sales taxes, corporate income taxes, payroll taxes, property taxes, capital gains taxes, unemployment insurance taxes, workman’s compensation taxes and other payments businesses must make to federal, state and local governments, all of which are passed on in some form to consumers.