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Tax Laws

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Taxes are collected at all levels of government, from the city and county to the state and then the federal government. As a result, tax laws differ widely across the nation. The best resource for tax law information is an attorney in your jurisdiction.

Governments generally impose taxes when an event occurs, such as the sale of merchandise or the receipt of an inheritance. Nearly always, money must be transferred from one entity or individual to another in order to be taxed.

In most states, the tax code is based on the federal tax system. Tax laws are typically separated in a tax code. Your state government will make this publicly available; for any questions, ask a tax attorney in your area. Cities and counties generally collect sales, use or property taxes. Local governments do not always follow the federal system.


Federal taxes are collected under the authority of several laws and Article I of the Constitution. Businesses are mostly concerned with four areas of taxation:


  • Income taxes. Under the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, Congress is authorized to collect income taxes. Every business must file a federal income tax return. The type of return filed depends on the organization of the business.


  • Employment taxes. All businesses with employees must pay employment taxes, including federal unemployment taxes, income tax withholding, Medicare and Social Security.


  • Self-employment taxes. Individuals who work for themselves must still pay Social Security taxes.


  • Excise taxes. Excise taxes are collected when a business manufactures or sells certain products, or uses certain products or equipment.


The federal government collects most of its revenue through the income tax. The statutes and IRS regulations that govern taxes are known as the Internal Revenue Code, or Title 26 of the U.S. Code.

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