The three primary purposes of taxes are to fund the government, redistribute wealth and mitigate the negative effects of many consumer products. Without the taxation system, the government and most social services would not be able to function.
The primary function of taxes is to create a stream of revenue for the government. Almost of every aspect of the United States government is paid for by taxes, from politicians' salaries to the building of roads. Taxes allow the government to maintain an active military, fund public education, provide public services such as parks and libraries, finance scientific research and space exploration, enforce laws and build public landmarks. Taxes also serve to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor. By charging higher taxes to those with higher income, the government ideally helps spread wealth to lower-income citizens. This type of redistribution can be seen in social services such as Medicare, which provides medical care to U.S. citizens age 65 and older, and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, which helps low-income families pay for food. Taxes are also intended to offset the harmful effects of many widely used consumer goods. Items such as gasoline and electronics exert a considerable negative impact on the environment, so these items are taxed in order to fund measures to combat their damaging effects.