On Taxes

“He says that the Roman system of tax farming was one of the main reasons the empire collapsed,” I explained. “Taxes in the provinces were collected by private contractors, so the whole business of collecting taxes turned into a giant profit-making industry.”

Mr. Magundi looked thoughtful for a second. Then he said, “Did you know that, within an easy walk of this very streetcar stop, there’s an office of Liberty Tax Service, an office of Jackson Hewitt, and two offices of H & R Block? Just a fun fact to remember. Now we can get back to what was wrong with ancient Rome.”

2 thoughts on “On Taxes

  1. There is a huge difference between the Roman model of Government Contracted Collectors and the Roamin’ model of Consumer Contracted Preparers.

    In the Roman model, Collectors earned bonus commission by over-collecting taxes.

    In the Roamin’ model, Preparers earn bonus commission by over-preparing schedules and forms. They make merely a token for filing a simple form 1040EZ. But by adding Schedules A, C, EIC, SE, and XYZ along with forms 2106, 2441, 5695, 8812, 8941, 4137, and 666 they can charge you $500 for reducing your tax by $250.

  2. Several years ago when our second Mayor Daley was selling off Chicago assets left and right to finance his annual budgets, I remember remarking, sometime between when he sold off the right to collect tolls on the Chicago Skyway bridge to Indiana, and the time when he sold off the rights to collect all parking meter fees for the next 75 years, that this kind of selling off the right to collect taxes was one of the things that killed the Byzantine Empire. It’s one thing to pay someone to collect your taxes, or to prepare one’s tax return. it’s entirely another thing to take a lump sum payment in exchange for allowing someone else to collect your taxes and keep the collected taxes for themselves. Imagine if the Federal Government sold off to Goldman Sachs or someone the right to collect and keep as profit all federal income taxes from residents of Pennsylvania for the next ten years. That’s essentially what the Romans, Byzantines, and Chicago’s Mayor Daley did.

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