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The Financial Decline of a Great PowerWar, Influence, and Money in Louis XIV's France$
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Guy Rowlands

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199585076

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199585076.001.0001

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Taxing to the Hilt? Structural Weakness and Falling Revenues

Taxing to the Hilt? Structural Weakness and Falling Revenues

(p.57) 3 Taxing to the Hilt? Structural Weakness and Falling Revenues
The Financial Decline of a Great Power

Guy Rowlands

Oxford University Press

The French economy was the largest in Europe but the complexities of its taxation system, which directly reflected the way society was constructed around privileges, made it hard for the state to tap the surplus wealth. The direct taxes were collected by networks of royal officials, organised by province, who owned their offices and pledged their credit to bridge shortfalls and delays in taxation flow. A wide range of indirect taxes were largely contracted out to the farmers general, who ran a huge company that passed funds to the king in return for a profit, but investment returns declined and the state eventually came to shoulder the entire risk. As tax yields fell the government increased the headline rates, but desperation for cash forced the king to allow privileged groups and even entire provinces to buy themselves out of future taxation, further shrinking the tax base.

Keywords:   direct taxation, indirect taxation, privileges, farmers general, profits, contracts

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