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Indirect Tax

Levies on goods and services, known as indirect taxes, are not imposed directly on income. The taxes are not paid by the entity that sends the payment to the government. Instead, they are eventually transferred to the end consumer through the pricing of goods and services. The purpose of indirect taxes is to evenly distribute the tax burden among different levels of consumption, so that individuals contribute to public revenues in accordance with their spending habits. Indirect taxes are widely found in different parts of the world and have a major impact on fiscal policies and government revenue.

1. Common Indirect Taxes:

There are various types of taxes that serve different purposes in the overall fiscal system. Indirect taxes, such as Value Added Tax (VAT), Goods and Services Tax (GST), excise duties, and sales tax, are commonly imposed by governments worldwide. The taxes in question can have varying nuances, but their primary feature is their application to the buying and selling of goods and services at different points in the supply chain. Indirect taxes provide governments with a means to generate consistent revenue by leveraging different economic activities. This revenue is essential for funding public services and infrastructure.

2. How does the Indirect Tax Compliance Process Work?

Ensuring compliance with indirect taxes requires businesses to follow a systematic process that aligns with the regulations of their jurisdiction. For businesses to comply with tax regulations, they must register for the appropriate indirect tax, keep precise transaction records, and calculate the tax liability at each stage of the supply chain. The compliance process typically requires businesses to submit periodic returns, reporting their taxable activities, and remit the collected taxes to the tax authorities. To ensure strong compliance, it is crucial to have a thorough grasp of the relevant indirect tax laws, maintain detailed records, and employ effective systems for tax calculations and payments.


Companies begin their compliance journey by registering for the appropriate indirect tax in their jurisdiction. This step requires providing in-depth information about their operations, financial structure, and other relevant details. Registration is crucial for ensuring compliance throughout the various stages.

b. Transaction Record Keeping:

Precise documentation is essential for meeting indirect tax requirements. It is crucial for businesses to keep accurate and detailed records of every transaction, whether it is a sale or a purchase. It is necessary to record the specifics of every transaction, including the individuals or entities involved, the amounts of the transactions, and the relevant tax rates.

c. Tax Liability Calculation:

Businesses need to ensure accurate calculation of their tax liability at every stage of the supply chain. Calculating the tax rate for the taxable amount is part of this process. In situations such as Value Added Tax (VAT) or Goods and Services Tax (GST), the calculation occurs step by step at every stage of production or distribution.

d. Periodic Returns Submission:

Businesses must submit periodic returns to the tax authorities in order to remain compliant. The returns offer a thorough summary of the company’s taxable activities within a specific timeframe. The information provided encompasses various aspects, including total sales, purchases, and the calculated tax liability. Submitting returns in a timely and accurate manner is crucial to show transparency and compliance with tax regulations.

3. Examples of an Indirect Tax:

An example of an indirect tax is the Value Added Tax (VAT), which is a commonly used type of consumption tax. The tax is imposed at every step of the production and distribution process in a VAT system, starting from the manufacturer and ending with the retailer. As a product or service goes through different stages, the VAT incurred at each level is included in the final price paid by the end consumer. The distribution of the tax burden is ensured among different participants in the supply chain. Here’s another example: the Goods and Services Tax (GST) operates on similar principles, but the rates and regulations may vary depending on the jurisdiction.


VAT, a commonly applied indirect tax, is levied at different points in the production and distribution process. Every participant in the process, from manufacturing to retail, contributes value to the product or service, resulting in incremental VAT levies. The final price includes the cumulative tax burden that is borne by the end consumer.


Just like VAT, GST works by taxing the value added at every step of the supply chain. Nevertheless, rates and regulations can vary greatly depending on the jurisdiction. Consumption tax mechanisms like GST have been widely adopted on a global scale.

These examples demonstrate the way indirect taxes work, impacting pricing and distribution in different economies. Businesses must customize their compliance efforts to adhere to the specific regulations governing their operations, as the global variations in implementation demonstrate.

Green Tax:

A green tax, often called an environmental tax or just an eco-tax, is a kind of government spending that aims to reward businesses and individuals for doing their part to protect the planet from harmful behaviors. Pollution and resource loss have external costs, and this tax is an attempt to make consumers pay those costs. Businesses and individuals can be encouraged to embrace more sustainable practices by governments that impose taxes on activities that worsen the environment. A more environmentally friendly and sustainable economy can be achieved by the implementation of green taxes in multiple industries, including energy, transportation, and waste management.

Carbon Tax:

The European Union (EU) is taking significant steps to lead global efforts in reducing carbon emissions, announcing a plan to cut carbon emissions by 55% by 2030 through its comprehensive tax package, ‘the Green Deal.’To account for the quantity of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases produced by burning fossil fuels, a price is imposed on their carbon content. There will be financial incentives for businesses to switch to renewable energy and implement carbon-efficient technology if governments implement carbon pricing. Carbon taxes can help pay for renewable energy initiatives or reduce the negative effects of carbon-intensive industries on the environment. In response to the critical need to slow global warming, carbon taxes are an important tool for encouraging a low-carbon economy.

Plastic Tax:

Production, import, and sale of plastic goods—particularly those that are difficult or impossible to recycle—are usually subject to a charge known as a plastic tax. Incorporated into the EU’s COVID-19 economic recovery plan, the plastic tax seeks to reduce raw material use, minimize waste, and promote a transition to a circular economy. The United Kingdom has already implemented this tax at the national level, with other Member States closely following suit.  The money that comes from plastic fees can be put back into programs that help manage trash, recycle more, and find better ways to package environmentally friendly products. To end the environmental dangers of plastic pollution and promote a more sustainable and circular way of packaging and consuming, plastic levies are crucial. Member States have implemented diverse plastic tax legislations, targeting various types of plastics and employing different structures. Some nations apply the tax to both domestic and imported plastic products, while others focus exclusively on foreign-sourced plastic through an excise tax system. The flexibility in tax rates and policies allows Member States to tailor strategies to reduce plastic packaging waste effectively. Estimates suggest that the EU’s plastic levy could generate an additional 6 to 8 billion euros annually.

4. What are the Recent Trends in Indirect Taxes?

The current developments in indirect taxes demonstrate the ever-changing fiscal policies, global economic shifts, and the continuous efforts to simplify taxation systems. A noteworthy development is the growing digitization of tax administration. Several jurisdictions are adopting electronic filing and reporting systems, which improve efficiency, minimize errors, and offer tax authorities real-time data for improved monitoring. In addition, it is common for governments to expand the VAT or GST base by revisiting the list of exempted goods and services in order to broaden the tax net.

There is a growing trend towards emphasizing environmental sustainability by implementing indirect taxes. Several governments are implementing eco-taxes or green taxes as a means to promote environmentally friendly practices and discourage activities that have negative effects on the environment. This is in line with the global initiatives to tackle climate change and encourage sustainable development.

To summarize, grasping the concept of indirect tax requires acknowledging its fundamental nature, navigating through different types, understanding the compliance process, and staying updated on changing trends. Indirect taxes play a crucial role in a country’s fiscal strategy, impacting economic activities and influencing consumer behavior. Given the ever-changing landscape, it is crucial for businesses and policymakers to adjust accordingly. This means adhering to regulations and actively working towards economic stability and sustainability.


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