Fun Facts about the History of Taxes

History of Accounting > Tax History > Fun Facts about Tax History

A few very interesting tax tidbits from some of the earliest societies
is imparted within these paragraphs. As we all know already, taxes can
be imposed on virtually anything and everything that we do or consume.
Below you will find some of the worlds very first forms of taxes, which
were collected by different societies spanning the globe.

In early Egyptian society, tax collectors were known as scribes. In an
attempt to raise revenue to maintain the construction of the pyramids, the
Egyptians imposed a tax on cooking oil. The scribes were instructed to visit
each person’s home, and make sure that they were not using something
else to cook with like wood or coal, so that there was not any lost revenue.
The IRS is bad enough, could you imagine what it would be like having
them come by once a week or so, to see what you were using for fuel.

When Greece was in a war, the Athenians imposed a kind of tax that was
known as eisphora. The funds collected were used to finance the army and
navy, and nobody was exempt from paying their fair share. When the war
ended, so did the tax, and any excess revenue not need to fund the war,
was returned to the citizens. Without questions, there are many citizens in
the US that wish this was the way our government operated when it came
to taxes.

In Rome, the first types of taxes the government collect were called
portoria, and they were custom duties on items that were either imported or
exported from the country. One of Rome’s emperors, Caesar Augustus was
a leader ahead of his time when it came to taxes.

He eliminated all forms of federal taxes, and instead had the local
governments collect the taxes, and later reimburse Rome its fair share. On

the down side, he was also the person who created the inheritance tax.
Thankfully, gifts to the children or spouse were exempt from paying that

In Great Britain, the first tax imposed on its citizens was started oddly
enough by the Roman Empire, which had invaded the country. A very
strange and famous story is told about those first taxes. Leofric, Earl of
Mercia was one of the rulers of the country at the time, and his wife was
Lady Godiva. He promised her, that he would resend the taxes if she rode
a horse naked through the streets of the town where they lived.

After Rome was thrown out of the country, the citizens thought their taxes
would be either reduced or eliminated. Instead, the Saxon kings started a
tax called the Danegeld on all land and property, which did not leave them
in good standing with the wealthiest of the nation’s inhabitants.

After the United States won its independence from England, one of the
taxes imposed on its citizens was called the Alexander Hamilton’s excise
tax of 1791. That tax later became known as the Whiskey Rebellion in
1794, when the people west of the Alleghenies rioted against the tax
collectors. It got so bad, that President Washington had to send in the
federal troops to calm everything down.

There you have it, a number of really fascinating little known tax facts from
some of the earliest societies in history.

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