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Taxes, Efficiency, and Redistribution: Discriminatory Taxation of Villages in Ottoman Palestine, Southern Syria and Transjordan in the Sixteenth Century

  • Metin Cosgel

    (University of Connecticut)

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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Paper provided by University of Connecticut, Department of Economics in its series Working papers with number 2002-22.

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Length: 43 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2002
Date of revision: Jul 2004
Publication status: Forthcoming in Explorations in Economic History.
Handle: RePEc:uct:uconnp:2002-22
Note: I thank Dhammika Dharmapala, David Feeny, an anonymous reviewer, and participants at the Economic History and Development Workshop at UMass, Amherst; the 2002 Annual Cliometrics Conference in La Crosse, WI; the 2002 Economic History Association Meetings in St. Louis, MO, and the 2002 Middle East Studies Association Meetings in Washington, DC for helpful comments and suggestions. Ali Ozdemir, Hesna Taskomur, and Sadik Yildirim provided valuable research assistance.
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Web page: http://www.econ.uconn.edu/

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  1. Slemrod, Joel, 1990. "Optimal Taxation and Optimal Tax Systems," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 4(1), pages 157-78, Winter.
  2. Holcombe, R.G., 1998. "Tax Policy from Public Choice Perspective," Working Papers 1998_03_02, Department of Economics, Florida State University.
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