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Power and Public Finance at Rome, 264-49 BCE$
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James Tan

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190639570

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190639570.001.0001

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The Use and Abuse of Tax Farming

The Use and Abuse of Tax Farming

(p.40) 2. The Use and Abuse of Tax Farming
Power and Public Finance at Rome, 264-49 BCE

James Tan

Oxford University Press

The use of private tax collectors was not unique to Rome. What was unusual, however, was that Rome relied on contractors to collect so many revenues, including direct taxes. Rome employed contractors so widely for three main reasons. First, Roman leaders had no interest in working with a skilled, empowered bureaucracy and so avoided a centralized state system of collection. Second, leaders enjoyed limited control over public funds, and so they were not interested in maximizing public wealth. Third, tax farming capped the state’s entitlement to revenue at an auction price, which freed any further exploitation of the provinces from the stigma of defrauding the Roman people. The elite was thus liberated to exploit the provinces more extensively.

Keywords:   tax farming, Rome, provinces, treasury, aristocracy, state, publicani

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