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1590s, "arithmetical table," from Italian tariffa, Medieval Latin tarifa "list of prices, book of rates," from Arabic ta'rif "information, notification, inventory of fees to be paid," verbal noun from arafa "to make known." Meaning "official list of customs duties on imports or exports" is from 1590s; sense of "classified list of charges made in a business" is recorded from 1757.
A government tax on imports, designed either to raise revenue or to protect domestic industry from foreign competition.