levy on the use or possession of a commodity. Under the principle that the taxpayer should pay according to the benefits received from public services, a use tax is often levied on the user of a service, so that costs of the service are not borne by the general taxpayer. Common examples are motor-vehicle and boat licenses and user fees for airports or harbour-docking privileges. The revenue from the tax is generally used by a government to cover the costs of the maintenance and regulation of the services-in these instances, highways, waterways, and airports. In the United States a use tax is often levied by state or local governments on purchases made outside the jurisdiction and therefore not subject to the jurisdiction's retail sales tax. In this case the use tax is generally equal to the retail sales tax.
Learn more about use tax with a free trial on Britannica.com.