Taxation


Kautilya visualized a ‘dharmic social contract’ between the King and the citizens. Taxes were levied for maintenance of the social order and for the state run welfare apparatus.  In case of aggression by an outside agency, the janapads (districts) could ask for tax remission as the King had failed in his duty to protect the citizens . Kautilya realized the critical role of the tax system for ensuring the economic wellbeing of the society. The hallmark of his tax system was ‘certainty’ – of time, of rate and of the mode of payment . Stability in the tax regime was an important factor in ensuring active trade and commerce in the Mauryan empire. This in turn strengthened the revenue base of the state and enabled it to maintain a huge standing army and the welfare apparatus.

State was overzealous in collection of taxes and tapped virtually every source. Citizens paid a toll-tax. Farmers (household as the unit of assessment) had to pay one sixth of the produce as the land tax. There was a land census at periodic intervals and land records were scrupulously maintained. This data base enabled the assessment of the taxable capacity of the household. Traders had to pay one tenth the value of the merchandize as tax. There was an entry tax to enter the fort, tax on use of roads and waterways, and for getting a passport. Even the hermits living in the forest had to part with one sixth of the grain gleaned by them as they too needed the protection of the King. Service industry was also taxed – actors, dancers, soothsayers, prostitutes, and auctioneers were subjected to taxation. Pilgrims had to pay a Yatra Vetna (pilgrimage tax). Citizens had to pay a tax (Pranaya Kriya) for the acts of benevolence.