value-added tax (VAT), levy imposed on business at all levels of the manufacture and production of a good or service and based on the increase in price, or value, provided by each level. Because the consumer ultimately pays a higher price for the taxed commodity, a VAT is essentially a hidden sales tax. Originally introduced in France (1954), it is now a major part of the tax structure of most Western European nations. In the early 1990s the U.S. government considered instituting a VAT to fund national health care programs.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.