Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Direct Tax Definition:

A tax demanded from the very persons who it is intended or desired should pay it.

Related Terms: Indirect Tax, Tax

John Bouvier, in his American Law Dictionary, wrote:

"Taxes are classified as direct, which includes those which are assessed upon the property, person, business, income etc. of those who pay them; and indirect, or those which are levied on commodities before they reach the consumer and are paid by those upon whom they ultimately fall, not as taxes, but as part of the market price of the commodity."

In Bank of Toronto, the Privy Council adopted these words:

"Taxes are either direct or indirect.

"A direct tax is one which is demanded from the very persons who it is intended or desired should pay it.

"Indirect taxes are those which are demanded from one person in the expectation and intention that he shall indemnify himself at the expense of another.... The producer or importer of a commodity is called upon to pay a tax on it, not with the intention to levy a ... contribution upon him, but to tax through him the consumers of the commodity, from whom it is supposed that he will recover the amount by means of an advance in price."

In Quebec v Reed, the Privy Council added:

"The question whether it is a direct or an indirect tax cannot depend upon those special events which may vary in particular cases.

"The best general rule is to look to the time of payment and if at the time the ultimate incidence is uncertain, then ... it cannot ... be called direct taxation."

Examples of direct taxes include land taxes, succession or estate taxes.


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