What is tax?

The word "tax" was much more dreadful in Ancient Egypt than it is now.

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Marina Orlova for Hot for Words: Today, we're going to take a look at one of the scariest and most dreaded words in the English language ... Can you guess what it is? If you're anything like me, you probably get a huge sense of dread when you hear the word "Tax." But we're not alone - this has been going on for years! The word "tax" was first associated with being a "burden" in the 1670s. But the word actually dates back to much earlier ... and for those people it was actually much more dreadful.

In Latin, the word "taxare" meant two things. First, to "evaluate, estimate, assess, handle," and second, to "censure and charge." As Latin passed into Old French in the 13th century, the word changed into "taxer" which meant "to impose a tax."

The word "tax" is thousands of years old, but the concept is much, much older than that. It actually dates back to Ancient Egypt around 3000-2000BC. At that time, peasants who couldn't pay their taxes (like crops or other resources) were forced into hard labor for the state.

Fortunately, most other forms of taxation weren't quite so severe. Around 500BC, the Persian Empire developed a more regulated tax system - different regions had to give different kinds of tax (like gold, crops, or silver) depending on their natural resources.

Taxation started springing up all over the world for all kinds of reasons. For example, Islamic rulers in India imposed jizya, a tax on non-Muslims, starting in the 11th century. Fortunately, it was eventually abolished. European governments started taxing people in the 17th century, and perhaps even earlier.

As you may know, taxes vary all over the world. Compared to many parts of Europe, the US has relatively low taxes overall. But no matter where you are, just be thankful that you won't have to do manual labor if you can't pay your bill!



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