Abstract

Governments can tax productive activities with either uniform or discriminatory rates among taxpayers. Although discriminatory rates can cause productive inefficiency and require high cost of administration, they can be preferred because of their advantage in distributional flexibility. This paper studies the discriminatory taxation of production in the Fertile Crescent. Using information from the Ottoman tax registers, it examines the basis, distortionary effects, and distributional consequences of discriminatory rates quantitatively. The results challenge widely held beliefs about the basis for discriminatory rates in this region and the Ottoman government's motivation in adapting systems of taxation in newly conquered lands.

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