What it is:
Taxes are required payments from citizens to governments. The payments fund projects and expenditures that serve the public interest.
How it works (Example):
Most taxes are legislated, meaning that representatives elected by the citizens of a country or region determine what activities to tax, how much to tax, when to collect those taxes, and how to administer the proceeds. Individuals, businesses, and other entities subject to the tax must remit the tax or face enforcement action.
Why it Matters:
Taxes are a topic of fierce debate in economics, politics, public policy and investing. For example, one of the most controversial taxes in the United States is the federal income tax. In the U.S., we have a progressive tax, meaning that a person's tax rate rises as income rises.
Economically speaking, one of the biggest effects of taxation is the impact it has on consumption. Generally, consumers will consume less when taxes rise and consume more when taxes fall.
In the investing world, taxes are also a major consideration. Some transactions trigger tax liabilities while others do not. The timing of buying and selling certain investments may trigger different tax liabilities. Ultimately, taxes reduce returns, and wise investors will consider their effects in all of their financial decisions.