It is a matter of general belief that taxes on income and wealth are of recent origin but there is enough evidence to show that taxes on income in some form or the other were levied even in primitive and ancient communities. The origin of the word "Tax" is from "Taxation" which means an estimate. These were levied either on the sale and purchase of merchandise or livestock and were collected in a haphazard manner from time to time. Nearly 2000 years ago, there went out a decree from Ceaser Augustus that all the world should be taxed. In Greece, Germany and Roman Empires, taxes were also levied sometime on the basis of turnover and sometimes on occupations. For many centuries, revenue from taxes went to the Monarch. In Northern England, taxes were levied on land and on moveable property such as the Saladin title in 1188. Later on, these were supplemented by introduction of poll taxes, and indirect taxes known as "Ancient Customs" which were duties on wool, leather and hides. These levies and taxes in various forms and on various commodities and professions were imposed to meet the needs of the Governments to meet their military and civil expenditure and not only to ensure safety to the subjects but also to meet the common needs of the citizens like maintenance of roads, administration of justice and such other functions of the State.
n India, the system of direct taxation as it is known today, has been in force in one form or another even from ancient times. There are references both in Manu Smriti and Arthasastra to a variety of tax measures. Manu, the ancient sage and law-giver stated that the king could levy taxes, according to Sastras. The wise sage advised that taxes should be related to the income and expenditure of the subject. He, however, cautioned the king against excessive taxation and stated that both extremes should be avoided namely either complete absence of taxes or exorbitant taxation. According to him, the king should arrange the collection of taxes in such a manner that the subjects did not feel the pinch of paying taxes. He laid down that traders and artisans should pay 1/5th of their profits in silver and gold, while the agriculturists were to pay 1/6th, 1/8th and 1/10th of their produce depending upon their circumstances. The detailed analysis given by Manu on the subject clearly shows the existence of a well-planned taxation system, even in ancient times. Not only this, taxes were also levied on various classes of people like actors, dancers, singers and even dancing girls. Taxes were paid in the shape of gold-coins, cattle, grains, raw-materials and also by rendering personal service.
Collection of Income-tax was well organised and it constituted a major part of the revenue of the State. A big portion was collected in the form of income-tax from dancers, musicians, actors and dancing girls, etc. This taxation was not progressive but proportional to the fluctuating income. An excess Profits Tax was also collected. General Sales-tax was also levied on sales and the sale and the purchase of buildings was also subject to tax. Even gambling operations were centralised and tax was collected on these operations. A tax called yatravetana was levied on pilgrims. Though revenues were collected from all possible sources, the underlying philosophy was not to exploit or over-tax people but to provide them as well as to the State and the King, immunity from external and internal danger. The revenues collected in this manner were spent on social services such as laying of roads, setting up of educational institutions, setting up of new villages and such other activities beneficial to the community.
Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman - Finance Minister
Shri. Nitin Gupta- Chairperson
r Bhagwat Kishanrao Karad - Minister of State