At a time when political leaders in Europe and the United States are committed to no additional income-tax burden on the middle class, they also share the advantage of raising revenue without drawing too much attention to the tightening fiscal noose.
As a result, analysts say, taxpayers from California to Copenhagen should brace themselves for more “stealth taxes” — indirect levies like sales taxes, or microcharges on services once provided free, like registering a pet.
Such charges can have many benefits for tax collectors. For one thing, they are less volatile and less dependent on the economic cycle than corporate or income taxes. For another, they are less prone to avoidance and cheaper to collect. Finally, analysts say, they are generally easier to enact.
“Politics comes into it,” said Stephen Matthews, a tax expert at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Raising income taxes is more of a “last resort,” he said.
Not that income taxes are entirely off the table. President Obama has vowed to restore the higher tax rates of the Clinton era on those earning more than $250,000 a year. And the British government just returned its top rate on high incomes to 50 percent after years of declines. But those increases are focused on the wealthy.
Given the public anger over the cost of bailing out the financial system, the idea behind such measures, Mr. Matthews added, is to be seen as tough on the rich.
But countries like Denmark, the Netherlands, France and Belgium already set their top rates around 50 percent, and sometimes higher. For most countries, there is no room to go much further.
President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, for example, was elected in 2007 promising to put more disposable income in people’s pockets. In the areas of income, corporate and wealth taxes, he has kept his pledge, capping increases. But with the bills from the financial crisis now landing — and the deficit rising — he is becoming more creative.
The taxpayers’ pressure group Contribuables Associés claims that since Mr. Sarkozy was elected, at least 20 new taxes have been introduced, including one on crustaceans and mollusks to help pay for a rebate on diesel fuel for fishermen. Copayments for some medications have gone up, as well as television license fees.
An official from the office of Éric Woerth, the French budget minister, disputed the group’s figure, saying it was much lower. The official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, said that the overall fiscal burden for households and companies had fallen under the government of Mr. Sarkozy.
Other countries have leaned toward increasing or extending the value-added, or sales, tax.
The average V.A.T. rate in the European Union climbed to 19.8 percent in 2009 from 19.5 percent in 2008. It would have been higher except for a temporary cut in Britain that expired in January.
A survey by the accounting firm KPMG in October said that the average V.A.T. rate in Europe would hit 20 percent this year or next.
Beyond the taxes on unhealthy foods, Denmark recently removed tax exemptions on travel agencies, property management and the supply of buildings and land.
Finland, besides resurrecting taxes on candy and carbonated drinks, raised the V.A.T. rate.
“There will also be a mixed bag of other indirect taxes and smaller stealth taxes, which combine revenue generation with other goals like improving the environment,” Niall Campbell, global head of indirect tax at KPMG, said in an interview by telephone from Dublin.
Britain raised the duty it adds to airplane tickets last year, and it will jump again on Nov. 1. While billed as an environmental tax, the revenue goes directly into the Treasury, critics say.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies, a British research group, estimates that revenue from air duties will almost double to £3.3 billion ($5 billion) by 2014.
France has announced plans for a carbon tax, intended to encourage conservation. It would be levied on fuels as a proportion of their emissions. It is supposed to be revenue-neutral, with a range of exemptions. Critics, including the opposition Socialist Party, argue that it will fall disproportionately on the poor.
Other taxes are focused even more narrowly.
Last year, Northern Ireland announced that it would raise the cost of a dog license tenfold to £50, ostensibly to better tackle the problem of strays and violent attacks.