Top Ten Historical Facts about Taxes

History of Accounting > Tax History > Top Ten Historical Facts about Taxes

Hopefully, you will find the following little known historical facts about taxes
interesting and enlightening. Today, we take so much of what our society
has to offer for granted, as if it has always been there helping us to live the
great lives that we do now.

Fact # 1 - Many words in the English language are derived from Latin
terms, and the word tax is no different. In Latin, it means “To Assess”. The
word tax only began to be used in the English language in the 14th century,
and at the time it was interchangeable with the French word, “task”.

Fact # 2 – For both the Greek and Roman empires, the most lucrative form
of taxation that generated them the most wealth for their treasures, was
human bondage or slave trading.

Fact # 3 – The Bible discusses taxes in the “Book of Genesis”, when it
suggest that a fifth of all crops should be generously turned over to the

Fact # 4 – After the fall of the Roman Empire, it often was very difficult
to distinguish between a government running a country and a religious
institution. At the time, they were both very powerful and wealthy. The early
Christians started a tradition of “tithing” ten percent of their income to the
church, and this practice is still very popular in today’s society.

Fact # 5 – In the Qu’ran, you will find references to the “Islamic Tax”, which
was named “Khums”. It was very similarly to tithing, because their followers
were instructed to turn over a percentage of their income to Islam.

Fact # 6 – Many centuries ago, the Buddhists and Hindus sustained their
religions and temples in much the same way they do presently. They asked
for and receive voluntary contributions of not only cash, but also time, skill,
and labor from their followers.

Fact # 7 – If you think that all “Knights” were brave and honorable, you
should appreciate the following. In England, under the feudal system, a
Knight could “Buy Out” their required time in military by paying a form of
taxation called, “Scutage”.

Fact # 8 – The Vikings had a very interesting form of taxation that they
imposed on less powerful countries, either you paid them what they
wanted, or they killed you. In 845, they got the government of Paris to
deliver to them 6 tons of silver, so that they would not burn the city down
and kill all of its inhabitants. They thought that this approach worked so
well, that in 994 they did the same thing to London.

Fact # 9 – The French Revolution that occurred between 1789 and 1799
happened because the counties citizens were not pleased with the way
taxes were being collected. Napoleon the genius that he was recognized
this when he came to power, and later centralized the system by hiring
private tax collectors, who were paid by being allowed to keep a small
percentage of what they collected.

Fact # 10 – In 1914 when World War One started, the standard income
tax rate in England was 6 percent. When the war ended in 1918, it was 30

Just when you think that you know everything about taxes, you learned
something new. With any luck you found the ten facts mentioned above,
both fascinating and informative.

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