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sumptuary tax (plural sumptuary taxes)

  1. (economics, taxation) A government levy on goods considered to be socially undesirable goods or nonessential luxuries, most commonly alcohol and tobacco.
    • 1810, “[review of] What is the Influence of the different Species of Taxation on the Morality, the Activity, and the Industry of Nations? By M. de Monthion, formerly Counsellor of State. Paris”, in The Critical Review:
      The author seems favourable to a tax on dress, when, exceeding the limits of necessity and decency, it luxuriates in finery and ornament. A tax which should fall only on the superfluous embellishments, and costliness, of apparel would be a sumptuary tax, and might form a new source of supply to the necessities of the state, if an easy, simple, and economical mode of raising it could be devised. We have taxes on hats, and on hair-powder; and might not a salutary tax be levied on jewels and lace, and various other exterior decorations
    • 1812, Thomas Tusser, Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry[1], page 125:
      Although the influence of a very patriotic sumptuary tax has diminished the number of dogs, we have still “ thousands too many.”
    • 1906, “[testimony of] Sir Henry William Primrose, 8 Feb. 1906”, in 'Parliamentary Papers, House of Commons and Command'[2]:
      I do not consider that the Carriage Tax is a tax intended to pay for the upkeep of the roads at all; I do not think that ever entered into the idea of it. I think it was a purely sumptuary tax intended to hit a luxury. / 14905. Like the Window Tax, which was also aimed at a supposed luxury ? / —Yes.
    • 1982, Florentino G. Ayson, ‎C. O. Resurreccion, The fundamentals of agrarian reform[3], page 173:
      A sumptuary tax is a tax whose effects are desired on moral or ethical grounds. It is levied on certain products or services the consumption of which is discouraged. Example of sumptuary taxes are those imposed on the production, sale, or consumption of tobacco products, alcoholic drinks, playing cards, billiard tables, cabaret admissions, and many others. A tax for regulatory purposes should be distinguished from sumptuary tax.



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