New Simplified Tax Process Just Gives All Thy Money to The King Then Beheads Thee
Filling the Royal Coffers hath never been so easy!
In a new programme that ist being extolled by taxpayers (i.e., everyone) everywhere, the Royal Exchequer and Coffers Administration hath rolled out a simplified tax filing process wherein thou just gives all of thy money to The King and are then beheaded.
“‘Tis so effective, we hath not had a single complaint yet,” spake Arch-chairsitter of the Exchequer Jobias Schnute. “In fact, not a single taxpayer hath said anathing a’tall. I cann’t believe we didn’t think of this earlier!”
Fisckal experts doth think the new process shall solve perennial problems such as peasant rebellions, blacksmith riots, and other oppressive tax-related revolts.
“Studies hath shown that unruly peasants are far less likely to revolt if they doth not have heads,” spake Schnute. “One cann’t argue with ye facts.”
Despite the programme’s success, some tax collectors worry it may have a negative effect on future tax revenue.
“Even after we charge the additional Beheading Tax, methinks the long term effects of all of our vassals being dead couldst be dire for the Royal Coffers,” spake Warden of the Ox and Mule Tax Ternace Jibber. “And beheading everyone makes an audit nigh on impossible.”
To offset potential losses, the Royal Army hath proposed an innovative strategy of perpetual war to conquer new territories, and with it new heads.
“More tax dollars and fewer rebellious peasants?” Schnute didst add. “‘Tis a win-win!”
If thou haddest any doubts about the new tax programme, just look at all the past revolts that such a policy couldst have prevented.
Addendum: Tax Rebellions
As long as there have been taxes, there has been resistance to taxes. Resistance to paying taxes has spurred major historical events, and has been common enough throughout history that there’s an entire Wikipedia page on historical acts of tax resistance. Here’s a few examples from the Middle Ages.1
1 - Limoges Tax Riots, 578 AD. King Chilperic I of Neustria (in modern France) levied burdensome taxes on his people, including that “each proprietor should pay one amphora of wine for each arpent of land.” (Good luck calculating that on your tax returns.) Some people fled the kingdom to avoid the taxes, but the people of Limoges rebelled. They burned the tax rolls, and would have killed the tax collector Mark (yes, his name was just Mark) if the bishop hadn’t intervened to save him. Chilperic got mad and sent troops to Limoges: “…he inflicted great losses on the people, humbled them with punishments, and sent many to their death.” Afterwards, to punish them for revolting about heavy taxes, he levied even heavier taxes on them (although Wikipedia says his wife Queen Fredegund may have later rolled some of these back).
2 - Danegeld, 1041. The Danegeld was a tribute paid by the people of England to Danish/Viking raiders to prevent them from raiding and doing other terrible Viking stuff in England. In 1041, the people of Worcester killed two Danish tax collectors who had exacted particularly heavy tribute. King Harthacnut of Denmark (who was also King of England from 1040-1042) responded by destroying Worcester.
3 - Alamanikon, 1197. Byzantine emperor Alexios III owed Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI this “German tax” as tribute, because Henry said he would invade the Byzantine Empire if he didn’t pay. Alexios called together all the prominent people in Constantinople and proposed doing a property assessment on all of them, presumably to tax them on said property. The people strongly opposed this and became riotous, forcing Alexios to abandon the idea. He instead plundered gold and silver from the graves of previous Byzantine emperors to raise the funds.
4 - Rouen. There appears to have been a number of tax-related riots in Rouen over the years, especially in the mid-to-late 1300s, most of which were ruthlessly crushed. This was the period of the Black Death and the Hundred Years’ War, the latter of which Rouen was caught in the middle of, so both of those things probably exacerbated the unrest. Or maybe the Rouennais just really hated taxes.
5 - Peasants’ Revolt/Wat Tyler’s Rebellion, 1381. The most famous of the medieval peasant uprisings, it also occurred during the Hundred Years’ War, when people were being taxed heavily to pay for the war. The rebellion had the support not just of peasants, but of yeomen farmers, artisans, and others. The fuse of rebellion was lit in Essex when a tax collector named John Bampton tried to collect unpaid poll taxes, or fixed-sum taxes on every individual. The rebels, led by Wat Tyler, rioted around for a while, eventually reaching London, where they generally pillaged and murdered a bunch of people associated with the poll tax. The teenage King Richard II met with the rebels and agreed to meet some of their demands, but during his second meeting with them, Tyler was murdered by the mayor of London right before his eyes. Richard managed to disperse the crowd by promising reforms, and elements of the revolt in other parts of the country were crushed soon after. Once the rebellion had been crushed, Richard largely forgot about all those reforms he promised, but the government no longer tried to establish a poll tax, and the lords started thinking twice about how they treated their peasants and serfs.
6 - Bundschuh Movement, 1493-1517. Bundschuh refers to a type of shoe worn by German peasants in the Middle Ages, which would have distinguished a peasant from knights and nobles who wore boots. The German Wikipedia page on the movement says this type of shoe would no longer have been worn by peasants at the time, so its use as a symbol was more a metaphor for a world that was upside down. The same page says that, in addition to tax reforms and some other demands, at least one local Bundschuh group had an anti-Semitic element to it, and that a peasant organization in Nazi Germany later appropriated the Bundschuh symbol for their own use. (All of the sources are in German so I haven’t been able to read into this further.) In any case, the Bundschuh became a symbol of various localized peasant rebellions leading up to the German Peasants’ War of 1524-1525, which, of course, was ruthlessly crushed.