Value Added Tax (VAT)

VAT stands for Value Added Tax, a tax levied on the sale of goods and services. The tax is collected by the government at each stage of the supply chain, from manufacturers and wholesalers to retailers. VAT is an indirect tax, which means that it is collected from customers when they purchase goods or services.

How it works

When a business sells a good or service, it adds the VAT to the price of the product. For example, if a company sells a product for $100 and the VAT rate is 20%, the price the customer pays will be $120 ($100 + 20% VAT).

The business collects the VAT from customers and pays it to the government. However, the business can also claim back the VAT it has paid on its own purchases. This means that the total amount of VAT paid to the government is the VAT that has been collected from customers minus the VAT that has been paid by the business on its own purchases.

The VAT system is designed to be self-enforcing. Businesses are required to keep accurate records of VAT transactions and submit regular VAT returns to the government.

VAT rates

The VAT rate varies between countries and even between different products and services. In the European Union, for example, the standard VAT rate is 20%, but there are also reduced rates and exemptions for certain products and services.

In some countries, certain products may be subject to different VAT rates. For example, in the UK, most goods and services are subject to the standard VAT rate of 20%, but there is a reduced rate of 5% for some goods and services, such as domestic fuel and power.

Advantages and disadvantages

Advantages of VAT include:

  • Simplification of tax collection: VAT is an efficient way of collecting tax revenue, as it is based on business transactions rather than personal income.
  • Fairness: VAT is proportionate to the value of the goods and services purchased, which means that those who spend more pay more tax.
  • Revenue generation: VAT is a significant source of revenue for governments, which can be used to fund public services.

Disadvantages of VAT include:

  • Complexity: The VAT system can be complex and difficult to administer, particularly for small businesses.
  • Burden on consumers: Consumers ultimately bear the burden of the VAT, as the tax is included in the price of goods and services they purchase.
  • Regressiveness: VAT can be regressive, as low-income households may pay a larger share of their income on VAT than higher-income households.


VAT is a tax on the sale of goods and services that is collected by the government at each stage of the supply chain. The tax is added to the price of goods and services and collected from customers, but businesses can claim back the VAT they have paid on their own purchases. VAT rates vary depending on the country and the product or service. While VAT has advantages such as simplification of tax collection and revenue generation, it also has disadvantages such as complexity and potential regressiveness.

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