How the ancient government used to collect taxes from people in times where there was no national identify card policies to track them?



I’m not sure why this came into my mind or how the tax collection system works in different countries or even if the national identify card policy is a thing in this case but I’m just curious to know.

In: Economics

That depends a lot on the place in question.

Most taxes back in the day were not income taxes, but property taxes. The tax collection agent would come to your house, look at all of your stuff (particularly your land) and then figure out how much you owed based on what you owned. This of course meant that you could reduce your tax by hiding your stuff. Can’t hide land though, and land is the most important thing in medieval tax collecting, so it worked out OK. Then you send sacks of grain or whatever you were to pay your taxes in (paying in money was rare) to the tax guy. And if you didn’t, then the tax guy’s friend, who owns a very sharp axe, pays you a visit.

Tracking people wasn’t very important back then. If someone didn’t have land, they didn’t have much to contribute in taxes anyway, and if they did have land, then they could easily be found since they would have built their house on that land, or be working the land to make a living – and thus would not stray far from it. People who did not own land but still gained enough wealth to be worth collecting taxes from tended to be well-known members of high society, and would only be able to avoid taxes by fleeing to another society, leaving much of their wealth behind.

Very simple.

Let’s say there is a kingdom, that is divided into five regions by the king.

This king gives these five regions to 5 representatives of the king, let’s say they are called dukes.

Then these dukes divide these territory in 5 sub-regions, that they give to 5 representatives of these dukes, let’s call them barons.

Let’s say that there sub-regions have one castle each, and each castle has three cities around it.

Each baron appoints a mayor to those cities, and each mayor takes taxes from the people that live there, taxes that are given to the barons after the major took a part for himself.

Then the barons, while keeping a part for themselves, give a portion to the dukes.

Then the dukes, while keeping a part for themselves, give a portion to the king, and thus everyone is happy besides the people that have to pay taxes.

In Ancient Rome, there were tax farmers. They were given no pay contracts to collect taxes in a region and told to collect an amount, let’s say 1000 bucks. He goes around annually and says I’m collecting Caesar’s taxes based on what he thinks people should pay. If he collects 1500 bucks he gets to keep the 500. It had its pros and cons but most tax farmers were hated but came up with the money. The disciple Matthew was a tax farmer.

Rule 2.

r/askhistorians might know better. Besides that, not every modern country has a national ID card.