What Is Excise Tax?

What is excise tax and how does it work? Read on to find out.

When talking about excise taxes, the initial thing that comes  to mind is what is excise tax? However, before looking at the answer to this question, let us take a quick look into the history of excise taxes. Initially in America (in 1791), excise tax was imposed on the production of whiskey. The tax was disagreeable and very unpopular which is the reason why it only worked till 1802. In the early long stretches of the Republic, excise taxes acted as a tool to generate income identified with wars and monetary plunges.

During the Great Depression in 1934, excise tax incomes practically made up 50% of the national government’s total revenue and multiple times more than the individual annual. Today, there are government excise taxes on engine fuel, tobacco, and liquor, among different merchandise, administrations, and exercises, notwithstanding a wide scope of state excise taxes

Excise taxes are interior taxes that are exacted on the offer of explicit merchandise and ventures, like liquor, fuel and tobacco. An excise charge is a roundabout expense that isn’t paid by the clients straightforwardly — all things being equal, the excise charge is forced on the provider or the maker, who at that point remembers it for the item cost.

If you want to know more about what is excise tax, then you have come to the right place. We have gathered all relevant information to help you understand everything that you need to know. So, what are you waiting for? Without much further ado, let us dive right in!

What is excise tax?

A legislative tax, excise tax is charged on certain products and services such as fuel, tobacco, and liquor. Excise taxes are worldwide taxes established within an administration framework as opposed to global taxes forced across country borders. A federal excise tax is typically gathered from engine fuel deals, aircraft tickets, tobacco, and other different products and enterprises. Similar to sales taxes, excise taxes are a type of indirect tax. This is because they’re given to the client at the retail location. Yet, sales tax varies from excise charge in that it applies to essentially all merchandise while excise taxes just apply in specific occasions.

Excise taxes are imposed by the administrative, state, and nearby governments. The taxes can either be applied as a percentage of the absolute expense of an item or administration or as a fixed sum. For instance, the excise tax on a vehicle is a percentage of the overall expense while the excise tax on tobacco and gas is a fixed sum. On the off chance that you sell any items that are liable to excise tax, it’s your duty as an entrepreneur to gather and pay the taxes to the right authorities, government and state. The excise taxes are charged in one of two different ways:

  • Percentage of the cost: Under this strategy, excise taxes are charged as a percentage of the item or administration. For instance, homegrown air go is dependent upon an excise duty of 7.5% of the cost of the ticket in addition to $4.10 (in 2018).
  • Per unit tax: With this technique, taxes are charged on every unit sold. For instance, an excise tax is imposed on every gallon of gas sold.

This might not affect the overall revenues of the businessman, yet it expands the cost of the item, which may influence the interest.

In the U.S., excise taxes are collected at the manufacturing time or when a service is delivered. The taxes are then factored into the item’s expense, implying that for the most part a customer doesn’t even have the slightest idea as to what he is paying in excise tax; and that too only if he knows that he is paying the excise tax at all. Contingent upon the product, the excise tax/duty may be evaluated as a level of the last expense, for example, the 7.5% charged on air passage, or as a level dollar sum for every unit, similar to the 18.4 cents charged per gallon of gas. There may even be extra excise taxes at the state level.

Here and there alluded to as a “sin tax,” the excise tax has been utilized to debilitate what the public authority thinks about undesirable conduct or to course the income gathered from it toward battling the negative outcomes of that conduct. Nonetheless, excise taxes additionally go toward paying for costs identified with the good being taxed, as in how the construction and development of a new road is financed by the gas tax. Congress figures out what things have excise tax by making updates to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) charge code. You’ll scarcely see the excise tax on air travel when you book a trip with a high-reward aircraft credit card.

To put it plainly, an excise tax is a flat tax charge that applies to specific merchandise, administrations, and services. In the U.S., merchandise like liquor and administrations like indoor tanning are surveyed as an excise tax, which applies to every unit or event paying little heed to its expense. Income generated by excise taxes targets explicit requirements in a society which are typically identified with the good or service being taxed.

Specific excise taxes

Specific excise taxes are a set tax or charge added to a specific item on a per-unit premise. A few examples of government specific excise taxes consist of cigarettes ($1.01 per pack of 20), pipe tobacco ($2.83 per pound), beer ($7 for the initial 60,000 barrels), cruise ships ($3 per traveler), and gas ($0.183 per gallon). Often sin taxes on focused products like lager and liquor will be taxed at the administrative level and furthermore taxed greatly by the state. Thus, making the expense of these things higher. For instance, New York has a specific excise tax of $4.35 per cigarette pack of 20. Combining this with the government tax of $1.01 makes the excise taxes alone $5.36. These taxes extensively affect the buyer.

Federal excise taxes

There is a federal excise tax on cigarettes, liquor, and betting rewards. There are likewise federal excise taxes on fuel, aircraft tickets, and some health related products too. In 2017, federal excise taxes generated $83.8 billion or 2.5% of federal tax revenues. Of that, $13.8 billion were cigarette taxes. The tax adds $1 to every pack of cigarettes. Liquor taxes contributed $9.9 billion in federal income. Alcohol is $13.50 per proof gallon. Each proof gallon is a liquid gallon that is half liquor. Wine is $3.40 per gallon. Lager is $18 per barrel, albeit miniature breweries pay $7 per barrel.

State excise taxes

States can likewise charge sin taxes. In 2014, states gathered $32.5 billion in sin taxes. They gathered $16.9 billion in cigarette taxes. They got $6.1 billion for alcohol, wine, and brew deals. They got $9.5 billion in taxes on gambling, excluding state lottery incomes. By and large, sin/excise taxes contributed only 3.8% of absolute state income. A few states depend on sin taxes substantially more than that.

Rhode Island relies upon sin taxes for 15.9% of its income. That is on the grounds that it has two gambling casinos. It surpassed the gambling capital of the world, Las Vegas. Nevada gathers $900 million in taxes from casinos, however sin taxes just contribute 14.8% of income. This state pay permits Nevada to waive off personal taxes on its occupants.

The national average sin tax for cigarettes is $1.58 per pack, as per research done by the Arizona Daily Sun. But that goes from $0.60 a pack to $3 a pack. The most reduced rates are in the tobacco-developing provinces of Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Virginia. They additionally have the most noteworthy smoking rates. Kentucky is No. 1, with 25.9% of the populace who smoke. West Virginia is second, at 25.7%. Georgia has 17.7%, North Carolina has 19.0%, and Virginia has 16.5%.

The national average tax for alcohol is $4.56 per gallon. It’s $0.85 for each gallon of wine and $0.29 for every gallon of beer. The two states with the greatest expense of living additionally have the most noteworthy sin tax rate. Alaska charges $12.80 for each gallon of alcohol and $2 for each bunch of cigarettes. Hawaii is second, charging $5.98 for every gallon of alcohol and $3.20 for each bunch of cigarettes. Wyoming and Missouri have the most minimal sin tax rates. Wyoming has no alcohol tax and just charges $0.60 for each bunch of cigarettes. Missouri forces $2 on every gallon of alcohol and $0.17 on each bunch of smokes.

How do excise taxes work?

Excise taxes are fundamentally for businesses. Customers might possibly see the expense of excise taxes straightforwardly. Many excise taxes are paid by vendors who at that point give the tax to purchasers through more exorbitant costs. Dealers pay excise taxes to wholesalers and consider excise taxes in item estimating which expands the retail cost overall. There are some excise taxes anyway that are paid straightforwardly by a customer including local charges and excise taxes on some retirement account activities. Federal, state, and nearby governments have the position to establish excise taxes. While personal tax is the essential income generator for federal and state governments, excise tax income likewise makes up a little bit of the total revenue.

Excise taxes are basically a business tax, separate from other taxes a business should pay, similar to personal taxes. Businesses charging and accepting excise taxes are required to document Form 720 Federal Excise Tax Return on a quarterly premise and incorporate quarterly payments. Business authorities of excise taxes should likewise keep up their commitments for passing on excise taxes to state and nearby governments as required. Dealers might be permitted allowances or credits on their yearly personal tax returns identified with excise tax installments.

Excise taxes can be categorized as one of two classifications: ad valorem and specific. Ad valorem excise taxes are fixed rate rates surveyed on specific products or administrations. Specific taxes are fixed dollar sums applied to specific buys. At times, governments demand excise taxes on products that have a high friendly expense, like cigarettes and liquor, and consequently, these taxes are once in a while called sin taxes. Generally, the biggest income creating excise taxes in the U.S. come from engine fuel, aircraft tickets, tobacco, liquor, health related merchandise, and health related services.

What activities are subject to excise taxes?

Excise taxes are levied on assembling, deal, or utilization of products, and upon licenses to seek after specific occupations. Federal reliance on excise taxes is down fundamentally since 1950, when right around 20% of federal tax assortments were from excise taxes. Today, excise taxes just make up around 3% of federal assortments as individual and corporate annual tax incomes have developed drastically.

Example of an excise tax

A few examples of excise taxes that are collected by the federal government incorporate the accompanying. Let us look at probably the most well-known excise obligations below.

Percentage of Price:

Sportfishing gear

Carrier tickets

Indoor tanning administrations

Guns and ammo

Per Unit Tax:

Gas and diesel

Cruise ship passengers

Tobacco and cigarette items


A portion of the excise taxes are utilized for future financing of enormous capital undertakings. For instance, air terminal excise taxes are utilized to subsidize air terminal enhancements. Keep in mind, there are both federal and state excise taxes so it’s essential to check the prerequisites with your state.

Difference between excise taxes and sales taxes

Sales tax is the tax that businesses typically gather from the shopper at the place to checkout and pay to the public authority for the offer of specific services and products. There are two fundamental differences between sales tax and excise tax. While excise tax is demanded distinctly on specific merchandise and ventures that are viewed as destructive or connected to specific medical problems, sales tax is applied to a wide scope of things.

Likewise, sales tax is determined as a percentage of the deal cost. For instance, on the off chance that you purchase a more costly luxury vehicle rather than a less expensive utility vehicle, you would have to settle more sales tax. The level of sales tax applied is set by the nearby and state governments in the United States.

Then again, an excise tax is frequently a for every unit tax forced before the price tag for specific things by the state, neighborhood and federal governments. For instance, in 2019 a tax of $4.35 is forced on every 20 cigarette packs by the New York State paying little heed to the base cost of the pack. To cover excise taxes, businesses should record Form 720 every month after the finish of each quarter. The form can be recorded via the IRS EFTPS framework or sent through mail.

There two or three key contrasts between excise tax and sales tax:

  • Excise tax applies to specific products and enterprises while sales tax is charged for a lot more extensive scope of things.
  • Sales tax is ordinarily charged as a percentage of the expense, while excise tax can be charged as a percentage of the expense or on a per-unit premise.
  • Shoppers pay for sales tax at the place to checkout while excise taxes are regularly indirectly given to the buyer as greater costs for whatever products or services fit the bill for the excise obligation.

In spite of the fact that it’s not difficult to confuse excise tax and sales tax, it’s fundamental for business proprietors to know the contrast between the two sorts of tax. For some business proprietors, they will not need to manage excise tax and just with sales tax. For other people, contingent upon their industry, they may need to work with the two sorts of tax. It’s for this last gathering particularly that it’s pivotal to have a strong comprehension of how excise tax functions and how to submit excise installments to the legitimate administrative authorities. On the off chance that you don’t have the foggiest idea how to deal with excise tax or sales tax, it’s fundamental to address a bookkeeper to ensure you’re paying and recording everything appropriately.

Who pays excise taxes?

Most clients don’t understand that they are paying excise taxes. This is on the grounds that the taxes are for the most part calculated into the item cost, instead of posting it separately like sales tax.

In the event that you maintain a business that is needed to gather excise taxes, it’s your duty to gather the tax from the client and pay it to the public authority each quarter. To do that, business proprietors should record Form 720, Quarterly Federal Excise Tax Return which records the different kinds of federal excise taxes. In the form, business proprietors should list the kinds of taxes that they’ve gathered and detailed it to the public authority. Furthermore, states may have their own documenting necessities.

There are sure exceptions to covering excise taxes. Non-benefit associations, government associations and crisis specialist co-ops are absolved from certain excise taxes in certain circumstances. By tracking these uses for which excise taxes were gathered, these associations can guarantee a discount of the taxes on IRS Form 8849 toward the year’s end.

Excise taxes on retirement accounts

Excise taxes are additionally charged on some activities on a retirement account. Numerous individuals know about these taxes as punishments. A 6% excise tax is applied to abundance individual retirement account (IRA) commitments that are not rectified by the material cutoff time. A 10% excise tax penalty applies to appropriations from specific IRAs and other qualified plans when a financial backer makes withdrawals before age 59.5. Additionally, a half excise tax penalty is charged when financial backers don’t take the necessary required least number of conveyances from certain retirement accounts. Required least dispersions are obligatory after 72 years of age (for any individual who arrives at age 70.5 in 2020 or later) for customary IRA accounts and a few other tax-conceded retirement investment funds plans.

Why are excise taxes levied?

Excise taxes can be utilized as Pigouvian taxes, or sin taxes, to cost in externalities. An externality, in financial matters terms, is the result or outcome of an action that isn’t reflected in the expense of said action. For example, excise taxes might be utilized to lessen utilization of cigarettes or sugar-improved refreshments, to check contamination, or to decrease gridlock. Excise taxes can likewise be utilized as client charges. The job of excise taxes as a client expense is best perceived with the case of the engine fuel tax, where gas buys fill in as an intermediary for a driver’s commitments to gridlock and street mileage, as a result setting a cost on the utilization of public streets.

Revenues from excise taxes

The extra government revenues from sin taxes are by and large used to take care of the cultural expenses made by the utilization of unsafe products (e.g., expanded spending on medical services to treat the infections brought about by smoking). What’s more, incomes and revenue generated from sin taxes permit governments to execute distinctive social projects (e.g., bring issues to light of the outcomes of smoking). Sin taxes/excise taxes are generally forced as worth added taxes on different products like cocktails and cigarettes. Sin taxes are backward taxes. All in all, the taxes place more weight on the less fortunate pieces of the populace and less weight on the more affluent populace.

Pros and cons of excise taxes


There are three contentions for sin taxes. They debilitate undesirable conduct, they pay for society’s expenses, and they’re well known with electors. Sin taxes deter individuals from unfortunate behavior. In 2009, the federal government raised cigarette taxes by $0.62 a pack. Young smoking rates fell by 10%, and in general cigarette sales dropped 8.3%. Somewhere in the range of 2005 and 2015, the level of individuals who smoked tumbled from 21% to 15%.

For instance, a 10% tax on cigarettes lessens request by 4%. This decrease in popularity is considerably more articulated among youngsters. A 10% tax lessens smoking among those matured 12 to 17 by 11.9%. Somewhere in the range of 80% and 90% of cellular breakdown in the lungs passings are expected to smoking. Kentucky, the state with the most noteworthy tobacco use, has probably the most elevated rate of lung cancer.

Sin taxes help states pay the expense of treating the general wellbeing results of smoking, drinking, and betting. Be that as it may, states don’t spend as quite a bit of this tax income on medical services as they could. It takes care of a portion of society’s expense of instructing individuals about cellular breakdown in the lungs. Sin taxes are more politically feasible than raising pay or sales taxes. As indicated by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, public and state assessments of public sentiment have “reliably shown expansive citizen support” for tobacco tax increments. Some different benefits of excise taxes are:

Discourage undesirable or corrupt conduct

Examination shows that the sin taxes forced on tobacco and liquor really debilitate the utilization of the substances. The decrease in the utilization of tobacco and liquor prompts a decrease in medical problems related with the utilization of unsafe substances.

Cover the expenses

Incomes from sin taxes furnish the public authority with assets to take care of the costs forced by the utilization of hurtful merchandise. For instance, the public authority may utilize the incomes to finance medical care to lessen the unfavorable impacts of the utilization of the merchandise unsafe to society.

Feasible choice contrasted with other taxes

Sin taxes are a more feasible choice to build the public authority’s income than different kinds of taxes, for example, annual taxes. This can be clarified by the positive meaning of the taxes that the general public perspectives as advantageous from the social and good points of view.


Sin taxes aren’t sufficiently high to work. In the event that states truly needed to dispense with the conduct, they would raise the tax until it was sufficiently high to deter a great many people from getting the propensity, yet not sufficiently high to energize a bootleg market.

An illustration of this sort of tax is the carbon tax. England forced a carbon tax, adequately restrictive to compel service organizations to change from petroleum derivatives to flammable gas. Accordingly, ozone depleting substance discharges in the United Kingdom radically tumbled to late nineteenth century levels. On the off chance that the carbon tax were only a sin tax, its expense wouldn’t be sufficiently high to propel organizations to search for cleaner elective fuel sources.

Sin taxes are abstract. Legislators conclude that some medical problems, like cigarette and liquor habits, ought to be taxed and others shouldn’t. Other supposed sins, like opium and heroin compulsion, aren’t taxed yet are just announced unlawful. Different addictions, like sugar, aren’t taxed despite the fact that they mess wellbeing up like diabetes. Some different impediments of excise taxes are:

Backward tax

Sin taxes are backward in nature. In this manner, sin taxes victimize the more unfortunate classes by putting a greater monetary weight on them comparative with the weight set on richer individuals.

Illegal operations

The inconvenience of sin taxes may bring about criminal operations like underground market activities and carrying.

Buyer conduct contrasts

Sin taxes don’t similarly influence the conduct, everything being equal. Albeit a few customers may stop their utilization due to sin taxes, others may not change their conduct.


Now that you have read this article, you know all about what is excise tax. Extract taxes are charges that are forced on different merchandise, administrations and exercises. Such duties might be forced on the producer, retailer or shopper, contingent upon the particular duty. Extract charges are ordinarily required on cigarettes, cocktails, pop, gas, protection expenses, entertainment exercises, and wagering, and make up a generally little and unstable part of state and neighborhood charge assortments.

John Otero

John Otero

John Otero is an industry practitioner with more than 15 years of experience in the insurance industry. He has held various senior management roles both in the insurance companies and insurance brokers during this span of time. He began his insurance career in 2004 as an office assistant at an agency in her hometown of Duluth, MN. He got licensed as a producer while working at that agency and progressed to serve as an office manager. Working in the agency is how he fell in love with the industry. He saw firsthand the good that insurance consumers experienced by having the proper protection. John has diverse experience in corporate & consumer insurance services, across a range of vocations. His specialties include Major Corporate risk management and insurance programs, and Financial Lines He has been instrumental in making his firm as one of the leading organizations in the country in generating sustainable rapid growth of the company while maintaining service excellence to clients.