A luxury tax
is a tax
To tax is to impose a financial charge or other levy upon a taxpayer by a state or the functional equivalent of a state such that failure to pay is punishable by law. Taxes are also imposed by many subnational entities...
on luxury goods: products not considered essential. A luxury tax may be modeled after a sales tax
A sales tax is a tax, usually paid by the consumer at the point of purchase, itemized separately from the base price, for certain goods and services. The tax amount is usually calculated by applying a percentage rate to the taxable price of a sale....
Vat or VAT may refer to:* A type of container such as a barrel, storage tank, or tub, often constructed of welded sheet stainless steel, and used for holding, storing, and processing liquids such as milk, wine, and beer...
, charged as a percentage on all items of particular classes, except that it mainly affects the wealthy because the wealthy are the most likely to buy luxuries such as expensive cars, jewelry, etc. It may also be applied only to purchases over a certain amount; for instance, some U.S. states charge luxury tax on real estate
In general use, esp. North American, 'real estate' is taken to mean "Property consisting of land and the buildings on it, along with its natural resources such as crops, minerals, or water; immovable property of this nature; an interest vested in this; an item of real property; buildings or...
transactions over a limit.
A luxury good may be a Veblen good, which is a type of good for which demand increases as price increases. Therefore the effect of a luxury tax may be to increase demand for certain luxury goods. In general, however, since a luxury good has a high income elasticity of demand by definition, both the income effect
In economics, the consumer's preferences, money income and prices play an important role in solving the consumer's optimization problem...
and substitution effect will decrease demand sharply as the tax rises.
When a luxury tax is imposed, the majority of people aren't affected by it and aren't subject to the tax. Over time, what is viewed as "luxury" might change, resulting in more and more people being affected by the tax. Despite the animosity that ensues, the government may view the income from the luxury tax as essential and will not restrict or rescind it. So it may happen over time that goods considered "ordinary" might also incur luxury tax. An example of this can be seen with various commodities in the country of Norway, where at the beginning of last century, cars and chocolate were viewed as luxury goods. Thus, additional taxes were levied upon these goods. Today few Norwegians consider cars or chocolate a luxury, but the luxury taxes on these goods remain. In Ireland, many personal hygiene products are within the luxury tax bracket. In the United States, winning on a game show is usually considered a luxury, which is subject to taxation as well.
In the United States, many states used to collect state sales tax through the use of "luxury tax tokens" instead of calculating a percentage to be paid in cash like the modern-day practice. Tokens could be purchased from the state and then used at checkout instead of rendering the sales tax in cash. Presumably, the purpose of the practice was to remove the incentive for stores and businesses to avoid reporting income. Some tokens were copper or base metal while some were even plastic.
In popular culture
One of the squares on the Monopoly board (U.S. edition) is labeled "luxury tax". While there is a picture of a sparkling diamond ring
Diamond ring or This Diamond Ring or Diamond Rings may refer to:Jewelry*Diamond ring, a type of jewelry featuring a diamond. For this usage, see also engagement ring.Media...
on the square, the only effect is that the player must pay $100 to the Bank ($75 until September 2008).