Tribune: Tax History 101

The first record of taxation comes from ancient Egypt; around 5,000 years ago the Pharoah collected a tax equal to 20% of all grain harvests. Because this was before the existence of coin currency, the tax was literally paid in grain.

The Rosetta Stone was a propaganda poster for the successes of King Ptolemy V, that also served to explain the new tax laws he decreed in 196 BCE.1

Julius Caesar implemented the first sales tax: a flat 1% across the entire Roman empire. Caesar Augustus raised it to 4%.

Caesar Augustus also changed the tax system in the late first century BCE from one that taxed regions as a whole to one that was a direct income tax on individuals.

Ancient Egypt, Persia, and China all assessed property taxes based on the production value of the land, which were paid by farmers.

For more on the history of taxes, go to