To tax is to impose a financial charge or other levy upon a taxpayer (an individual or legal entity) by a state
State (polity)
A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

 or the functional equivalent of a state such that failure to pay is punishable by law. Taxes are also imposed by many subnational entities. Taxes consist of direct tax
Direct tax
The term direct tax generally means a tax paid directly to the government by the persons on whom it is imposed.-General meaning:In the general sense, a direct tax is one paid directly to the government by the persons on whom it is imposed...

 or indirect tax
Indirect tax
The term indirect tax has more than one meaning.In the colloquial sense, an indirect tax is a tax collected by an intermediary from the person who bears the ultimate economic burden of the tax...

, and may be paid in money
Money is any object or record that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts in a given country or socio-economic context. The main functions of money are distinguished as: a medium of exchange; a unit of account; a store of value; and, occasionally in the past,...

 or as its labour equivalent (often but not always unpaid labour).

A tax may be defined as a "pecuniary burden laid upon individuals or property owners to support the government [...] a payment exacted by legislative authority." A tax "is not a voluntary payment or donation, but an enforced contribution, exacted pursuant to legislative authority" and is "any contribution imposed by government [...] whether under the name of toll, tribute, tallage, gabel, impost, duty, custom, excise, subsidy, aid, supply, or other name."
The legal definition and the economic definition of taxes differ in that economists do not consider many transfers to governments to be taxes.