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I've found a lot about what kinds of taxes existed in the Middle Ages, but couldn't find a source pointing to specific percentages (apart from the tithe, but I don't know how thoroughly it was implemented). I'd like any information, however local or limited in time or scope.

closed as too broad by Semaphore, Samuel Russell, Mark C. Wallace, Pieter Geerkens, Kobunite Oct 25 '14 at 16:56

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  • I believe medieval taxes aren't necessarily percentage based. – user5001 Oct 22 '14 at 15:54
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    far too broad; tax rates will vary town by town, district by district and nation by nation (and possibly decade by decade) One of the reasons for the French Revolution was that nobody in France (including the finance minister) understood the tax structure. Trying to "average" that is like trying to average the numbers chosen in the lottery - you'll get an answer, but it is effectively a random number with no meaning. – Mark C. Wallace Oct 22 '14 at 16:43
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    A gentle reminder that duties, tithes and rents ought to be considered alongside "taxes." There was no uncomplicated method of extracting from peasants or the third estate more broadly. – Samuel Russell Oct 22 '14 at 20:32
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    I agree it is indeed broad. But any examples would do. What I needed was really some data do compare to Wa'el Hallaq's claim that Islamic/Shari'ah taxes combined during the Middle Ages "never surpassed 15%" (I don't know 15% of what, but anyway). – Joseph Oct 22 '14 at 21:56
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    Many taxes are not based on income (which couldn't be accurately tracked anyway), also the taxing bodies are different (local landlord, king, church etc) and the subjects (who pays and who doesn't) are different. – Greg Oct 23 '14 at 16:05
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In medieval times (and even in modern times) taxes were highly irregular and varied from place to place. In many instances a "tax" was really just a robbery. For example, in England since Domesday the most omnipresent "tax" was what was called the "hearth tax". The way this originally worked is that Norman soldiers went from village to village and visited each house or cottage that had a chimney (and thus a hearth). They would burst in and loot the house of any obvious valuables. This was the "tax".

By the time of Edward III who reigned 1327 to 1377 (50 years, a very long reign) the hearth tax was standardized at 2 shillings per hearth. This would be one tenth of a troy pound. Computing in gold at 16:1 and adjusting for sterling, this would be 0.0675 ounces of gold or $84 dollars per hearth per year.

However, a tax like this was just the beginning. In practice there were literally hundreds of taxes on anything the rulers could conceive of. Most of these taxes were against nobles (scutage) or against merchants (murage, pavage, pontage, stallage). Also, tolls and tariffs were common. For example, it would cost money to do any kind of transport; cross a river, cross a bridge, enter a town, land a ship. Adding up these taxes in any kind of consistent way would be difficult.

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    I'm not sure whether the $ amount is helpful - the market activities of English farmers can not be compared to anything modern. Especially considering that much of the trading was debt-based (with the wooden sticks with the cuts as denominator), physical currency was probably only used to pay taxes and maybe buy tools every once in a while. – user45891 Oct 22 '14 at 18:50
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    I disagree strongly with your inflation's validity, but appreciate that you argued why you were using that inflation. – Samuel Russell Oct 22 '14 at 20:34

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