A tax is an amount of money that governments require to be paid to support the government. Taxes have been around for a long time. In fact, there is a very old saying that in this world nothing is certain but death and taxes. Many centuries ago people were already paying taxes. Six-thousand-year-old clay tablets were found, in what is now modern day Iraq, containing the earliest known tax records.
The early Greeks paid taxes like those that are still enforced today, taxes on what people owned and sold. Roman taxes are mentioned in the Bible, and the fall of the Roman Empire is said to be in part due to the huge burden of taxes Romans imposed on the people. In ancient times, the Chinese civilization had a form of taxation that required that one-tenth of each person's land and what was earned from it belonged to the government.
Where there were taxes there always seemed to be the question of whether the taxes were fair. During the Middle Ages, there were many taxes. Every adult had to pay a poll tax, a tax just for being there, and existing as a person. There were also property taxes, even if one did not own property, and part of every person's work or what they grew must go to the Church.
Nobles revolted against King John in 1215 because he asked for payment of new taxes, made current taxes greater, and tried to tax people to pay for a war effort. King John's leadership was not trusted by the people who felt they had no obligation to pay to support this war.
During the Colonial Period settlers went to new lands and these lands became new sources of taxes. Taxes were especially needed to pay for wars. In 1779, the first income tax, a tax on employment income, was used by Great Britain to pay for wars against Napoleon.
The American Revolution was in part caused by what the colonists in America considered unfair taxation. The colonists had to pay taxes to England but were not represented in the English government. Their battle cry was, 'No taxation without representation.'
When the United States was first established there were few taxes. There was not much need as times were peaceful and there was little need to pay for an army. The government was also small and had no great need for extra money.
However, as the country grew there was a greater need for taxes. Citizens who earned a certain amount of money were taxed to pay for the Civil War. This was the first federal income tax. It lasted until the 1870's when it was withdrawn, but new federal taxes, taxes imposed by the national government, went into effect again in 1894.
Today some of our taxes go for protecting our country, helping those in need, keeping us healthy, paying off debts our country owes, and taking care of those who have fought in our wars. Without taxes, governments could not exist. But as history shows us, it is always important for each one of us to make sure that taxes are just, fair and necessary.
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