D&D 5E Taxes, and the people who have to pay them.

Istbor

Dances with Gnolls
So an odd thing happened while reading through the discussion thread about the prices on slaves in the Underdark. What about taxes?

My player's characters are all citizens of an established empire. Presumably, taxes are levied against said citizens.

Why does this matter you ask? Well for a few reasons actually. I like my world to be believable and appear to be a functioning place. Travel time in this quite large empire take a long time, and I am hoping that my players will want to explore the different regions and take advantage of 'off time' activities and goals. All told, this could mean years pass in game time, so a citizen would experience all the things that should happen in that time frame in this place. Adventurers have a lot of wealth. I mean... a lot. How would a functioning government not take advantage of this? And finally, since I have thought about it, I can't unthink it. I need to know.

I even thought an interesting and funny hook for an adventure or campaign could be the tax collectors laying down the business on the player(s) to recover back-taxes on all their unclaimed dungeon loot.

My question then is this. Has anyone made any sort of system or rules or even had thoughts about this besides me? Should I just put on my comfiest straight-jacket and calm down?
 

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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
In Eberron, you have to buy a letter of marque or something like that to be a licensed adventurer. I want to say it cost around 500 gp, but that was in 3.5e money, so 10 years later it has to be somewhere around 10,000 gp if my math is correct. If you're adventuring without the proper documents, I assume the various kingdoms put you in a cage.
 

guachi

Adventurer
My thoughts about this went far enough as to tell my players there were taxes and they had no choice but to pay them as I wasn't going to run a campaign based on running from the IRS.

Not that I inherently reject the idea. It could be really fun, especially in a more urban-centered campaign. An A-Team/Leverage type game where the PCs do good but hide from the law could (and probably would) be a cracking fun game I'd love to play or DM at some point.
 

schnee

First Post
Yeah, lifestyle expenses have a way of going up in real life, so it should here - characters just earning and earning and never spending money is unrealistic.

I'd levy them on characters that hoard and don't spend money on 'in-character thematic' things that don't benefit their combat prowess. So, stuff like a Cleric tithing to build a shrine, a Fighter training/arming a force to protect a village, a Rogue investing in a bunch of shadow business endeavors to get a bunch of eyes and ears, stuff like that.

Characters that don't take much in the first place due to character reasons should get something else - renown, good karma, something like that. I'd have to think about it.
 

Adventurers have a lot of wealth. I mean... a lot. How would a functioning government not take advantage of this? And finally, since I have thought about it, I can't unthink it. I need to know.
An adventurer who is successful enough to disrupt the economy is an adventurer powerful enough to overthrow a government. Adventurers capable of casting Teleport and Earthquake are not people you want as enemies.
 


jgsugden

Legend
Think about what has been said above from the perspective of PCs and NPCs. We call those story hooks.

What does the paladin do when the official government tells him 75% of his spoils from adventuring are due in taxes? Are the tax collectors corrupt, or just very much socialists? What if the taxes are stolen? Will the government negotiate for taxes they think are due, or go to war with the PCs if they refuse to pay?
 

First of all you have to think of how a government can practically collect taxes (or fees).

Sales taxes like we have today are... iffy and rely upon the goodwill and honesty of the merchants. I mean if everything you do is in cash (gold) and you don't have receipts and records are hand written (duplicate books anyone?) So, imo, sales taxes will never work.

Property or resident taxes work. You can send tax collectors into an area to levy taxes once a year (or whatever interval) and simply collect from every residence and everyone they can catch, using an arcane mark or just ink to mark those who have paid. So, this works for commoners and nobles, not so good for adventurers.

Import/Export taxes work. Basically any wagon or goods that go in or out of the city gate, or go across any given boarded get assessed a tax (5%). This works somewhat better for adventurers. But of course a bag of holding can carry a lot of stuff that can easily be hid.

Income taxes don't work, because you have no way to corroborate wages or income.

But, before you go too far, what fun is this going to add to your game? It adds some chances for roleplaying, especially import/export style taxes, but will probably become boring and stale pretty quickly (again, unless it becomes part of the campaign).
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
Interesting thoughts, but I can't help but put this thread in the category of "I'm glad we don't think about this stuff in my games" :)
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
If I was doing an urban campaign I'd think of stuff like this, I can picture a short story about Grey Mouser weaseling/stealing/killing his way out of taxes that are depleting his wenching and drinking funds. But in the OotA game or a regular dungeon bashing game it wouldn't add much.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
In the current campaign the party is set up at a frontier town. Adventuring is kind of like the gold rush. They get taxed on 10% of assessed value of any treasure they find. This helps to fund the town which provides them with safety, goods, and services.
 

gcatfish

First Post
Historically, income tax was not in fact a given. In Canada, it was only leveled in response to WWI, in fact. Republican rome dropped its taxes on citizens in rome proper in 167.

While they retained taxes (on assessed wealth, not income as they did not even try to track such a thing back then) in the provinces, the difficulties of performing a proper census on the population led to tax assessments being made against entire communities instead of individuals, with local authorities being responsible for figuring out who would pay what.

In the medieval period, land taxes were more often leveled than income taxes. Tariffs on trade goods in transport were also somewhat common. Income taxes (in general) were not common, or particularly popular. They also would have varied from location to location, as generally a King would tax his barons, and the baron his vassals, etc. and local lords would pay their share out of crops grown on their own lands using labour provided by serfs (as a certain amount of labour on the lord's land was generally owed to the lord by his serfs).

User fees such a bridge tolls and the like were also a common source of revenue for governments at the time.

Without a central tax agency or accurate censuses, taxation of adventurers would be more ad hoc.

Basically, if rumours reached a lord with local authority who thought he was powerful enough to get a share, he would have to put together an armed force.
That force would then make an expedition to assess the wealth of the party (which would likely just be the opinion of the leader of that force) and then demand some percentage of that amount at sword point (1/15 of moveable wealth was fairly common) and whatever land tax is proper for the amount of land they own. (2 shillings/hide of land in Henry II's rein, for instance). Even then, if none of them were sworn to that lord as a vassal or serf, the legality of the taxation might be in doubt in the first place.

In order for that lord to hear about it, and then spend money on a military adventure of this sort, the amount of money would have to be rather large. As well, the lord involved would have to assume that the adventurers should be treated as vassals/serfs. It is just as likely that he would consider them to be thieves or bandits and their goods to be forfeit if he won the day.

That is also excluding any items which the king or lord of an area might have proclaimed as expressly his wherever they are found. In England, for instance, the head of a whale that beaches itself belongs to the king, the tail to the queen.

That also excludes things like the tithe (10% of earned income goes to the church) which were solely collected based on the risk of excommunication that the medieval church had.

While in the fantasy society you are running a game or, or playing in, might be more anachronistic about taxes, in real history, they were not so inevitable or unavoidable as today. Information was hard to collect, and when collected, was not centralized. No one was reporting what they paid a worker to the government. Every tax bill would require boots on the ground to access an amount, and hiding wealth was common. Usually by burying treasure somewhere. I think it would be safe to assume that taxes aren't a worry for PC's, unless you think a visit from the sheriff would make a good story.
 

Why does this matter you ask? Well for a few reasons actually. I like my world to be believable and appear to be a functioning place. Travel time in this quite large empire take a long time, and I am hoping that my players will want to explore the different regions and take advantage of 'off time' activities and goals. All told, this could mean years pass in game time, so a citizen would experience all the things that should happen in that time frame in this place. Adventurers have a lot of wealth. I mean... a lot. How would a functioning government not take advantage of this? And finally, since I have thought about it, I can't unthink it. I need to know.

I even thought an interesting and funny hook for an adventure or campaign could be the tax collectors laying down the business on the player(s) to recover back-taxes on all their unclaimed dungeon loot.

My question then is this. Has anyone made any sort of system or rules or even had thoughts about this besides me? Should I just put on my comfiest straight-jacket and calm down?

First, look into the actual medieval taxation systems that existed. And think about how the tax collectors went about their jobs in the Robin Hood stories.

Also, you want to know what a government could do to those who are wealthier than the government? Just read the history of the Knights Templar and see how the French King and the Pope conspired to destroy them and take all their wealth and power from them.
 

It wasn’t quite taxes, but I tried running a campaign where everyone played some sort of nobility and had to pay a higher cost of living. Except for one or two of them, the players really chafed at this. Particularly the murderhobos. Sometimes verisimilitude has to give way for fun.
 

S

Sunseeker

Guest
Sure I've run taxes in my games. They're more for story purposes to demonstrate there is an oppressive government in place or to allow players to demonstrate loyalty to the kingdom and buy a place in noble society.

Taxes are annoying enough in real life.
 

If I was doing an urban campaign I'd think of stuff like this, I can picture a short story about Grey Mouser weaseling/stealing/killing his way out of taxes that are depleting his wenching and drinking funds. But in the OotA game or a regular dungeon bashing game it wouldn't add much.

Unless one of the demon lords was Sniag Latipac, the Demon Lord of Excessive Taxation. More feared than a herd of rust monsters: A luxury tax on magic items, nooooooooooo! Suddenly zone of truth is the most feared spell in the game.
 


Istbor

Dances with Gnolls
An adventurer who is successful enough to disrupt the economy is an adventurer powerful enough to overthrow a government. Adventurers capable of casting Teleport and Earthquake are not people you want as enemies.

That is all well and good if your players/characters are the types to do that. Being very anti-government or evil in nature. Would my players try something if they thought they could get away with it? Sure. You would just have to have established consequences in place for people attempting to over-throw the powers that be.
 

Istbor

Dances with Gnolls
First of all you have to think of how a government can practically collect taxes (or fees).

Sales taxes like we have today are... iffy and rely upon the goodwill and honesty of the merchants. I mean if everything you do is in cash (gold) and you don't have receipts and records are hand written (duplicate books anyone?) So, imo, sales taxes will never work.

Property or resident taxes work. You can send tax collectors into an area to levy taxes once a year (or whatever interval) and simply collect from every residence and everyone they can catch, using an arcane mark or just ink to mark those who have paid. So, this works for commoners and nobles, not so good for adventurers.

Import/Export taxes work. Basically any wagon or goods that go in or out of the city gate, or go across any given boarded get assessed a tax (5%). This works somewhat better for adventurers. But of course a bag of holding can carry a lot of stuff that can easily be hid.

Income taxes don't work, because you have no way to corroborate wages or income.

But, before you go too far, what fun is this going to add to your game? It adds some chances for roleplaying, especially import/export style taxes, but will probably become boring and stale pretty quickly (again, unless it becomes part of the campaign).

Oh no, I totally agree with the over all sentiment. What fun would it bring? Outside of a couple more 'zany' adventure hooks and ideas, I would probably never use it. This is more for my sanity, and just as a thing to show that the world they play in is kind of real.

I would totally play in an adventure where I am questing or dungeon delving to pay back-taxes owed. With some sort of time constraint to up the tension. However, getting into the minutia of taxes would get stale quickly. There would have to be a buy in to use it as an adventure at all.

Plus, think of the work you have to do if one of those players who is concerned/interested in the details of the world.
 

S

Sunseeker

Guest
That is all well and good if your players/characters are the types to do that. Being very anti-government or evil in nature. Would my players try something if they thought they could get away with it? Sure. You would just have to have established consequences in place for people attempting to over-throw the powers that be.

Honestly in every game where I become wealthy my immediate thoughts are "buy a house, buy a safe, get on the good side of king and country". I don't think "Use my inordinate wealth to topple the government and rule these pathetic NPCs!! *evil laugh* has ever crossed my mind.

Who wants to be king anyway? The king never does anything fun. Don't be Picard. Be Riker.
 

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