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A levy that one country imposes on imports of goods and services from another.
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A tariff is a levy that one country imposes on imports of goods and services from another. In international trade, tariffs are a regular component, but they are also a topic of contention and discussion.

Countries may impose tariffs for different reasons, such as:
  • To raise revenues: Tariffs are a tool the government can employ to raise revenue. For instance, the United States received $21 billion in customs charges in 2020.
  • To protect domestic industries: Tariffs may be used to protect domestic producers from international rivalry. For instance, in 2022, President Joseph Biden suggested a 25% tariff on imports of steel from the majority of nations to promote domestic steel production.
  • To protect domestic consumers: Tariffs can be used to deter consumers from consuming dangerous or subpar imports. For instance, some nations place hefty tariffs on imports of alcohol or cigarettes.
  • To protect national interests: Tariffs can be used to influence or apply political pressure to another nation. For instance, as part of a trade dispute involving intellectual property rights and other problems in 2018 and 2019, President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on a number of products coming from China.

How Do Tariffs Affect You?

Tariffs have an impact on both you as a consumer and producer. Tariffs may increase the price at which you as a consumer must pay to purchase imported items. Your purchasing power and available options may be affected by this. Tariffs could, however, work in your favor by generating more jobs and revenue for domestic producers who are less exposed to foreign competition.

Tariffs may benefit you as a producer if you make products that compete with imports because they will boost sales and earnings. Yet, if you rely on imported supplies or resources for your production, tariffs could harm you by increasing your expenses. Moreover, tariffs may result in retaliation from other nations, who might levy their own taxes on your goods.

Are Tariffs Good or Bad?

Tariffs are either helpful or bad for an economy, but there is no clear-cut solution to this question. It depends on a variety of variables, including the tariff's kind (specific or ad valorem), magnitude (low or high), elasticity (responsiveness) of the demand, number of substitutes (many or few), and trade policy as a whole (free trade or protectionism).

Because they induce market inefficiencies and distortions, some economists contend that tariffs are generally negative. Tariffs, according to some, result in deadweight loss and a reduction in consumer surplus (the gap between what consumers are prepared to pay and what they actually pay) (the loss of economic welfare that is not transferred to anyone else). They assert as well that tariffs undermine cooperation and international ties.

Some economists contend that because tariffs rectify market imperfections and advance societal welfare, they are occasionally beneficial. They claim that tariffs can aid in the protection of key sectors, public goods, and infant industries, which are freshly founded industries that need time to grow and compete (goods that benefit everyone but are not profitable to produce privately). They assert that tariffs can aid in the redistribution of income and wealth among various social groupings.