Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
- Author(s): Katary, Sally
- et al.
Although hampered by many limitations in source material, scholars have amassed many details concerning the ancient Egyptian taxation system from all periods and have begun to understand how the system may have worked. The best documentation for taxation comes from the New Kingdom, when the combined evidence of government records and administrative texts leads to the conclusion that Egypt enjoyed a “mixed economy.” The economic system fostered a complex system of economic interdependency wherein market forces played a complementary role: thus it was a “mixed” rather than a redistributive economy. Temples played a major role in the collection and redistribution of tax revenues. Especially important was the grain tax, which is well documented from many perspectives and was largely derived from the cultivation of lands on temple domains. Taxes were also paid to the Royal Treasury in livestock and other commodities. Taxation included a labor component in the form of the conscription of workers obliged to toil periodically tilling fields, laboring on construction projects, digging irrigation canals, and obtaining raw materials abroad. Tax revenues were used to finance royal building projects, maintain royal residences, carry on work in the quarries, supervise border security, wage war, support officials on missions, finance external trade, and safeguard trade routes. By the end of the Third Intermediate Period, the effects of the monetization of the economy gradually began to be felt. During this transformation, taxes in kind were replaced by taxes in coin.