November 23, 2009

The Lesson in Taxation Practices, Section Five: Tax Law and The Roman Empire

W. Marc Gilfillan

W. Marc Gilfillan, CPA, NC, individual and business CPA and Tax expert, shares about the history of taxes…

Finally moving away from Greece, we finally come to the Roman Empire. Historians usually refer to Roman tax policy as “more or less legal stealing” and Roman tax collectors as “a band of thugs.” However, Roman tax law was not always bad. There was a 200-year section at the zenith of the Roman Empire when taxes were moderate. Actually, every kind of taxation, as well as no taxes, characterized the Roman period. Taxes were as vital but as unpredictable in the Roman Empire as were the legions, the Senate and the Caesars. The arguably insane emperor Nero once advised to get rid of every indirect tax and create a “beautiful present to the human race.” If you are feeling the pressure with today’s taxes, call a Tax Preparer in Raleigh, NC for all your tax-related needs!


Romans - The Early Years

The early Roman Republic required little taxation because it operated with free labor. The military, which is arguably the most expensive operation in every society, was a citizen’s military, comprised of land-owners who served for one year without pay. They even provided their own uniforms and gear. This level of volunteer free public service extended to all government offices. Even the judges worked for the city without pay. It is hard to conceive the validity of this ancient practice, especially in our age, when nobody seems to want to lift a finger for the government without a fat paycheck. Go here if you want help with modern-day Tax Preparation in Raleigh, NC.

The ideal method in reducing heavy taxation is to instil in every citizen a spirit of selfless service for the public good. It isn’t needed to limit public programs and services; what is needed is the curtailment of the spirit of gain and profit that infests public servants and contractors.

The Romans, similar to many ancient civilizations, used the important men of their society to deal with tax law. Taxpayers loved and admired these men, and no doubt the integrity of these great men rubbed off on the taxpayers. In contrast, modern tax systems use professional public relations officers to manipulate taxpayers with advertising campaigns that play on fear more than integrity. Trouble began, however, when Roman armies began living off of the populace and took tribute in block form called “stipendium”.

Keep an eye out for W. Marc Gilfillan’s next chapter in his History of Taxes series: Taxes and the American Revolution.

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