Taxation has been resorted to in all developed communities to pay for public services provided by the ruler or other form of government.
In the Roman Empire tax gathering was farmed out to contractors known as Publicani, who paid the State an agreed sum and then collected what they could. In England the earliest example of the central government's attempt to impose a a national tax was the Danegeld in the 10th century. Under the Plantagenets, the monarch depended for his income partly on the revenue from Crown lands and partly from fees collected from his principal tenants in place of the obligation to perform military service on their king's behalf. Later, when these sources of income proved insufficient the king gradually exercised the right to levy other taxes, notably import duties on certain goods entering the kingdom, and export duties on goods leaving it.
But as parliament grew stronger as an institution, the principle was accepted that the monarch could not levy additional taxation without the approval of parliament. This had a very important influence on the development of political institutions in Britain. Charles I unsuccessfully attempted to levy Ship Money without the consent of the House of Commons and paid dearly for his indiscretion. When William III and Mary came to the throne in 1688 it was laid down once and for all that no taxes were to be levied without parliamentary consent.
Taxation falls into two main classes; direct and indirect. The principal forms of direct taxation ( i.e those assessed directly on individuals or corporations) are income tax (including surtax) in its various forms, death duties and estate duties. Indirect taxes (i.e those borne by all who use the article, commodity or service taxed) include purchase tax, customs and excise duties, and stamp duties. Customs duties are payable on import and are calculated either on value or quantity, according to the nature of the article. Excise duties are levied on home-produced goods (e.g beer and whisky), or goods processed or refined within the country(e.g motor spirit).
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