The Accounting Historians Journal Vol. 11, No. 1 Spring 1984
Harvey Mann CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY
THUS SPAKE THE RABBIS -THE FIRST INCOME TAX?
Abstract: A passage from the Talmud concerning income tax policy is examined. The attempt is then made to apply the policy to a hypothetical situation and to see whether the policy is relevant to the modern era.
A recurring fiscal policy decision must be made every time a new tax is imposed or when a change is made in the way an old tax is levied. The dilemma facing the policy makers, aside from political issues, is whether the tax should be imposed on an indirect or direct basis, by means or by head, with a minimum or a maximum, etc. or by some combination of the various possibilities.
That this problem is not unique to today's economy is made quite evident by a scrutiny of some of the Hebraic writings almost 2,000 years ago. In this paper, one such case is considered; a case con-cerning taxation for security purposes. Aside from the historical significance and an examination of a different culture, the debate and the suggested solutions outlined in the paper may prove of in-terest in today's taxation climate.
The question posed here comes from the Talmud, probably the most important and influential piece of Jewish illumination after the Torah. The Talmud contains all the rules, laws, and regulations about how a Jew should behave, his relationship with others and, in effect, orders his total existence. Although now in written form, it was passed down through the generations in oral form from the time of Moses. The Talmud consists of two parts. The Mishnah is
My thanks to Rabbi Zushe Silberstein, who suggested this topic and made pertinent and important comments on the paper. Nevertheless, although I am neither a Talmudic scholar nor a tax expert, I alone must bear full responsibility for all interpretations and conclusions drawn.