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Sales tax is only collected once, at the final point of purchase by a consumer.

On the other hand, a value-added tax (VAT) is a consumption tax that is levied on a product repeatedly at every point of sale at which value has been added.

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What is the difference between Sales Tax and Value Added Tax?

Both Sales Tax and Value Added Tax or VAT are consumer taxes, paid whenever one purchases a product or a service.

While the sales tax is directly calculated on the selling price, VAT is actually is based on the profit that is made at each step of the manufacturing and selling process.

Suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers all collect VAT on taxable sales. Until the sale is made to the final consumer, sales tax is not collected.

Businesses must track and document the VAT on purchases to receive a credit on their tax return.

Sales tax obligations are triggered by economic nexus. VAT collection is required under permanent establishment.

On June 21, 2018, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in South Dakota v. Wayfair that states can require businesses without a physical presence in a state, but with more than 200 transactions or $100,000 in-state sales, to collect and remit sales taxes. Since then, nearly all states imposing a sales and use tax have adopted economic nexus standards for remote sellers.


More than 140 countries throughout the world have a value-added tax. Every other region of the world has lower VAT rates on average than Europe. However, not all European countries have high VAT. Switzerland has an 8 percent VAT rate, which is about as high as the state and local average retail sales tax rate in the United States.

European Union (EU)
Standard rates: at least 15%
Reduced rates: at least 5%

  • African countries: 15 percent
  • Americas and Oceania: 13 percent
  • Asia: 12.3 percent
  • Canada (federal only), Taiwan, and Zambia: 5 percent
  • Hungary: 27 percent

VAT is not charged on exports of goods to countries outside the European Union.

(1) TSA – Tax Specific Additional
(2) GST – Goods and services tax
(3) IGIC – General indirect tax of the Canary Islands
(4) IPSI – General indirect tax (Ceuta & Melilla)
(5) IVA – Value added tax (Mexico)
(6) TBI – Import tax (New Caledonia)