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Miles White

Taxation within the Roman Empire

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The tax rate under normal circumstances was 1% and sometimes would climb as high as 3% in situations such as war. These modest taxes were levied against land, homes and other real estate, slaves, animals, personal items and monetary wealth.

Taxes in the Roman Empire, in comparison with modern times, were certainly no more excessive. In many cases they are far less per capita than anything we can compare to today. However, the strain of tax revenues was heavily placed on those who could most influence the economy and it would have dire consequences. The economic struggles that plagued the late Imperial system coupled with the tax laws certainly played a part in the demise of the world greatest empire.

I found this article very interesting, particularly how a 3% rate of taxation was actually considered oppressive by their standards and only necessary in a time of war when the government needed allot of money. Nowadays your slapped in the face by statists as a "capitalist fanatic" if you support a 10-15% flat tax. I'm afraid to know what rate of taxation will be considered "low" according to the futures standards.

http://www.unrv.com/economy/roman-taxes.php

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I found this article very interesting, particularly how a 3% rate of taxation was actually considered oppressive by their standards and only necessary in a time of war when the government needed allot of money. Nowadays your slapped in the face by statists as a "capitalist fanatic" if you support a 10-15% flat tax. I'm afraid to know what rate of taxation will be considered "low" according to the futures standards.

http://www.unrv.com/economy/roman-taxes.php

Keep in mind that at that time people were much closer to subsistence than we are today, so that even a small tax burden had a huge affect on their lives. Men are far more productive today thanks to all of our modern technology, so that we can more easily handle larger tax burdens. And, to be sure, there are also regulations. Just how free were Romans in comparison to modern Americans, i.e. how regulated?

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Keep in mind that at that time people were much closer to subsistence than we are today, so that even a small tax burden had a huge affect on their lives. Men are far more productive today thanks to all of our modern technology, so that we can more easily handle larger tax burdens. And, to be sure, there are also regulations. Just how free were Romans in comparison to modern Americans, i.e. how regulated?

None the less it still shows that a proper government really doesn't need very much income to finance it's necessary services at all. Information like this are good examples to remember the next time a bureaucrat proposes a proposition or a piece of legislation that wishes to increase revenues for a particular function like infrastructure or parks etc. People should be reminded of evidence like this so they can require congressman to use the money they already have more wisely before arbitrarily raising revenues.

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None the less it still shows that a proper government really doesn't need very much income to finance it's necessary services at all. Information like this are good examples to remember the next time a bureaucrat proposes a proposition or a piece of legislation that wishes to increase revenues for a particular function like infrastructure or parks etc. People should be reminded of evidence like this so they can require congressman to use the money they already have more wisely before arbitrarily raising revenues.

I didn't realize that was the perspective you were aiming at. Yeah, that's a good point. I'll have to remember that.

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How did Rome manage to build that many public monuments and buildings on a 1% tax rate? Was the tax rate applicable to Roman citizens only, or to all the residents within the Empire/Republic? Were there taxes on trade?

As for living standards, the Romans were affluent in their time as compared to the rest of the world. The principal Roman cities enjoyed paved streets, for example, had access to a large network of paved highways, and had lots of reasonably clean water.

The poor had lousy healthcare, sure, but so did the rich.

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I found this article very interesting, particularly how a 3% rate of taxation was actually considered oppressive by their standards and only necessary in a time of war when the government needed allot of money. Nowadays your slapped in the face by statists as a "capitalist fanatic" if you support a 10-15% flat tax. I'm afraid to know what rate of taxation will be considered "low" according to the futures standards.

http://www.unrv.com/economy/roman-taxes.php

But it sounds like these 1-3% taxes are levied against assets, as opposed to income - since it says they were levied against land, homes and slaves, for instance.

This, then, would be more analogous to a property tax in today's culture, and not an income tax. And given that the value of an asset is much higher than the value of the income it produces typically, then a low percentage property tax is just as onerous as a higher percentage tax levied against income.

And indeed, I think a 3% property tax would be regarded as quite high in the US today.

Also, if a tax like this was levied against a productive asset, the owner would have to pay 3% of the asset's value. This could well be a very high portion of the income the asset produced. (If, say, the asset being taxed was producing income at a rate of 5%, then a tax of 3% of the asset's value would amount to the same as a 60% income tax - quite a lot more than we pay today.)

One must be careful when comparing tax rates - the percentage of levy doesn't tell the whole story.

To get an idea of the Roman tax burden, one could try to estimate the total GDP and see what taxes were as a fraction of that, and compare it to today.

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Also keep in mind that Rome obtained much of it's wealth from the conquests of other nations.

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