excise taxes, governmental levies on specific goods produced and consumed inside a country. They differ from tariffs, which usually apply only to foreign-made goods, and from sales taxes, which typically apply to all commodities other than those specifically exempted. In their modern form, excise taxes were first developed by Holland in the 17th cent. and established by law in England in 1643. Introduced into the Dutch colonies in America, the system spread to other colonies. Such taxes were first used by the federal government in 1791 and aroused great opposition. They were repealed (1802) in Thomas Jefferson's administration. During the War of 1812 comprehensive excise taxes were levied again but were repealed in 1817. The taxes imposed during the Civil War included an excise tax on all manufactured goods. Most of those were gradually repealed, and by 1883 only liquor and tobacco were taxed. The Spanish-American War saw a temporary expansion of excise taxes. In both World Wars such taxes were greatly increased; in World War II they were levied on furs, jewelry, and leather as well as on liquor, tobacco, and amusements. Excise taxes, which account for less than 10% of all federal receipts, are far less important than the income tax. Nearly all the states and many municipalities levy excise taxes. The Internal Revenue Service collects federal excise taxes in the United States.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.