The Rosetta Stone to the US Code: A New History of Taxation
3. The Kaleidoscopic Romans
Adams begins with a few tidbits: taxation problems caused the end of Egypt and the taxes that the Greeks put on the Jews were an excessive one-third. Sulla of Rome created special tax agents, essentially IRS agents, to collect taxes.
Cicero felt that the era of chaos made a military dictatorship inevitable, saying that, “And so in Rome only the walls of her houses remain standing… our Republic we have lost forever.”
Adams talks about Swiss privacy/secrecy being adopted by 23 countries around the world. Several were fine tax havens.
Taxation was at the heart of Spain’s decline, but it was bad taxpayers as well as bad taxation. Spain owned almost everything, even Mexico, Panama, and what is now California, and Florida. Spain received a Royal Fifth on all gold and silver. Massive smuggling ensued. The Spanish king said no new taxes, but he tripled tax enforcement.
Today, you can be an American citizen, owing taxes, without ever having set foot in the US.
Lecture 3 of 10 from Charles Adams' The Rosetta Stone to the US Code: A New History of Taxation.