Parliament passed the Sugar Act to recoup some of the military expenses for protecting and defending the colonies. The Sugar Act was also a way for England to exercise control over the colonies. It was the first major action on behalf of Britain that eventually led to the American Revolution.
In 1764, England had a vast, expanding empire that was draining its treasury to maintain. The country was in debt from recent military conflicts and needed to generate income. The first of many actions to do so was to pass the Sugar Act. The Sugar Act actually lowered the taxes of molasses and sugar, but it was much more strictly enforced than previous taxes. Prior to the Sugar Act, England had been lax about collecting taxes from the colonies. The Sugar Act also imposed, for the first time, taxes on other goods and services. With the new taxes, the trade process became very difficult and complex. All shipments, whether headed for England or not, had to pass through British waters. If all of a cargo's paperwork was not in order, it could be confiscated. Trade became extremely difficult for American colonists as a result of the Sugar Act, but it did succeed in contributing considerably to the replenishment of the British treasury.