Define: Sin Tax

Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary

Definition: Sin Tax

What is the dictionary definition of Sin Tax?

Dictionary Definition

A Sin tax is a euphemism for a tax specifically levied on certain generally socially-proscribed goods – usually alcohol and tobacco. Sin taxes are often enacted for special projects – American cities and counties have used them to pay for stadiums – when increasing income or property taxes would be politically inviable.

Some jurisdictions have also levied taxes on illegal drugs. Whether this actually qualifies as a sin tax is rather questionable, since such taxes are generally intended to create an additional punishment for trading, possession or consumption of illegal drugs rather than to raise revenue.


Full Definition of Sin Tax

Sin tax is a term that identifies a tax levied on certain items deemed to be a vice. By levying a sin tax, governments can discourage the use of such products without making them illegal. A sin tax is usually imposed on items or practices that the government would like to discourage for purposes of overall morality and health of the populace. Gambling, tobacco products, and alcohol are popular targets of the sin tax. A least traditional target of the sin tax has been the soda and sweetened beverage industry.

The sin tax can also become a large source of revenue for the government that charges it. Critics of the sin tax cite this as a potential moral hazard for legislators who can end up with a conflicting agenda of wanting to discourage certain practices while at the same time also hoping to generate revenue through the participation in those same practices.


Cite Term

To help you cite our definitions in your bibliography, here is the proper citation layout for the three major formatting styles, with all of the relevant information filled in.

Page URL
Modern Language Association (MLA):
Sin Tax. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. April 05, 2020
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
Sin Tax. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. (accessed: April 05, 2020).
American Psychological Association (APA):
Sin Tax. Retrieved April 05, 2020, from website:

Definition Sources

Definitions for Sin Tax are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:

  • A Dictionary of Economics (Oxford Quick Reference)
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Accounting
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Business & Management

This glossary post was last updated: 13th February, 2020