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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



mandatory payments levied by the state on legal and physical persons.

Taxes first appeared with society’s division into classes and with the emergence of the state. They are used to finance state expenditures. The basic socioeconomic character of taxes, as well as their exact structure and role, is determined by the economic and political system prevailing within society and the basic nature of the state that follows from this. “Taxes,” K. Marx pointed out, “embody the economically expressed existence of the state” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 4, p. 308).

In antagonistic socioeconomic systems, taxes operate as one of the main sources of income for the exploitative state. The greatest burden falls on the working people, who are thus additionally exploited. Extensive tax systems existed as early as the slaveholding and feudal societies, primarily in the form of collections in kind, including such items as food, forage, and equipment for the army and navy, as well as personal obligations such as participation in military compaigns. With the development of commodity-money relationships, taxes were levied predominantly in monetary form, attaining their highest development under capitalism, especially in the period of imperialism. Under state-monopoly capitalism, the militarization of the economy, the bloating of the state administrative apparatus, and the expansion of state regulation of the capitalist economy in the interests of monopoly capital cause a swift rise in taxes. Among the developed capitalist countries in the late 1960’s, the proportion of national income diverted to the state budget through taxes was 35 percent in the United States, 45 percent in Great Britain, 37 percent in France, 38 percent in the Federal Republic of Germany, and 28 percent in Japan. Between 1950 and 1970, tax revenues in these countries increased by three to six times and now constitute up to 70–80 percent of state budgetary revenue.

Taxes are levied either directly or indirectly. Direct taxes are imposed on the income or assets of legal and physical persons. A distinction is made between real direct taxes, which are levied on land, livestock, and real property, and personal direct taxes, which are imposed on the income or property of physical persons. The latter type includes income taxes, property taxes, taxes on monetary capital and excess profits, and gift and inheritance taxes. Indirect taxes, also called excise taxes, are imposed as part of the prices charged for goods, primarily consumer goods. This gives the ruling classes significant privileges, as the tax burden is shifted almost wholly onto the poorer strata of the population, who consume most of these goods. For this reason, V. I. Lenin called such indirect taxes taxes on the poor (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 6, p. 262).

During the period of imperialism, the volume and relative proportion of direct taxes tend to grow. This is a result of such factors as intensified class contradictions; growing struggle by the working class for more progressive forms of taxation, with increased tax rates for larger incomes; growth of military and police expenditures in the state budget, for which taxes imposed on the working people become clearly inadequate; and struggle among various groupings within the ruling classes. It is also relevant that indirect taxes raise prices and thus limit the possibilities of expanding both domestic and export markets.

Under capitalism, taxes are antipopular in nature, with their primary burden falling on the working people. In the early 1970’s in such countries as the United States, the Federal Republic of Germany, and France, taxes consumed up to 25–30 percent of the income of the average working family. The capitalists attempt to evade payment of taxes by taking advantage of commercial secrecy, by falsifying business records, and by using other loopholes to conceal their true income. Various forms of direct and concealed state subsidies to monopolies, such as accelerated depreciation or defense contracts involving exaggerated costs, which in effect return to the monopolies the capital that was taken from them through taxes, have recently become especially widespread. The class-based, antipopular nature of taxes is also seen in the whole system of advantages offered to capitalists throughout the tax system, such as special rebates, large deductions from taxable income, special concessions for corporations for depletion of mineral wealth, and allowances for interest payments on indebtedness. The exemption from any taxation of funds set aside for depreciation, retention in reserve, and charity also illustrates this point.

In tsarist Russia, indirect taxes were the basis of the tax system. Income thus gained from the alcoholic beverage monopoly constituted 28.6 percent of all budget revenue from 1909 to 1913. Excise taxes on sugar and other consumer goods also brought in major receipts. Direct taxes on land or manufacturing played a considerably smaller role in the budget. Substantial concessions were given to the bourgeoisie and landowners in the levying of direct taxes; these taxes thus became, a heavy burden on the broad masses of peasants. A characteristic feature of the tax system in Russia was the absence of an income tax, which was resisted by the bourgeoisie and landowners. The income tax was introduced only on Jan. 1, 1917, under pressure from the revolutionary movement.

Under socialism, taxes are one of the means of planned distribution and redistribution of a portion of national income in the interests of building communism. Socialist ownership of the means of production permits the state to carry on direct distribution of national income and provide the largest part of state budgetary income through receipts from the socialist economy. In the late 1960’s this source constituted more than 90 percent of state budgetary income in the USSR, about 85 percent in Poland, and about 90 percent in Czechoslovakia. Taxes imposed on the populace make up an insignificant part of state budgetary income, providing about 8 percent of such income in the USSR in 1973. A characteristic feature of taxes under socialism is their effective return: the capital mobilized through taxes is used for social needs. In 1973, appropriations for sociocultural needs and science alone equaled more than four times the amount of taxes paid by the populace.

The tax policy adopted by the socialist state relates to the tasks that the state must accomplish at the various stages of building communism. After the dictatorship of the proletariat was established, the state used taxes to undercut the economic strength of the bourgeoisie, for example, the extraordinary indemnification taxes. During the period of transition, the tax system was directed toward restricting and supplanting capitalist elements in both the city and the countryside and toward strengthening the alliance between the working class and the laboring peasantry. Tax concessions for farms of intermediate size were combined with the partial or complete exemption from taxation of the holdings of poor peasants. Income tax rates on production and office workers were moderately progressive, with high nontaxable minimums and specific concessions for poorly paid groups among the populace. Taxes on enterprises provided one form of indirect regulation of their activity. Indirect taxes were also levied along with direct taxes and taxes on income and assets, but unlike the excise taxes collected under capitalism, the highest rates were now imposed on luxury goods, not on widely used consumer goods.

The 1930 tax reform in the USSR merged all tax and nontax payments made to the state budget. For socialist enterprises, previous taxes were replaced with two forms of extracting revenue for the state budget—the turnover tax and allocations from profit. With the victory of socialism, the system of taxation levied on the populace was also altered. Upon elimination of capitalist elements, such taxes as the tax on excess profits and the dwellings tax were completely abolished, and the income and agricultural taxes were appropriately restructured. The proportion of total taxes made up by direct taxes on the populace decreased sharply.

During the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45, the share of state budgetary income derived from taxes on the populace rose. Along with changes in state and local taxes, such taxes as the war tax and the tax on bachelors, persons living alone, and small families were instituted. This enabled the state to mobilize the additional resources needed for the country’s defense. In the postwar years, taxes imposed on the populace have steadily declined. The war tax was completely abolished in 1946 and the bachelor tax and agricultural tax were significantly reduced.

The Twenty-first Congress of the CPSU in 1959 adopted a decision on the gradual abolition of taxes on the populace. The law on the Abolition of Taxes on the Wages of Production and Office Workers, adopted in May 1960, was worked out in accordance with this decision and is being put into effect through a gradual rise in nontaxable minimum income levels and an expansion of tax concessions. In a number of regions of the country where the minimum wage paid production and office workers was raised to 70 rubles a month in 1972, taxes on all earnings to this level were abolished and the tax rates on wages up to 90 rubles a month were decreased by an average of more than one-third. The Program of the CPSU envisions the complete abolition of taxes levied on the populace.


Marx, K., and F. Engels. Moraliziruiushchaia kritika i kritiziruiushchaia moral’. Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 4.
Marx, K., and F. Engels. “Émile de Girardin, Sotsializm i nalog (Paris, 1850).” Ibid., vol 7. (Review originally published in Neue Rheinische Zeitung: Politisch-Ökonomische Revue, no. 4).
Lenin, V. I. K derevenskoi bednote. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 7.
Lenin, V. I. Agrarnyi vopros ν Rossii k kontsu XIX veka. Ibid., vol. 17.
Lenin, V. I. Kapitalizm i nalogi. Ibid., vol. 23.
Lenin, V. I. “Doklad o zamene razverstki natural’nym nalogom [na X s’ezde RKP (b)].” Ibid, vol. 43.
Programma KPSS. Moscow, 1973.
D’iachenko, V. P. Sovetskie finansy ν pervoifaze razvitiia sotsialisticheskogo gosudarstva. Moscow, 1947.
Mar’iakhin, G. L. Ocherki istorii nalogov ν SSSR. Moscow, 1964.
Finansy kapitalisticheskikh gosudarstv. Moscow, 1971. (By a group of authors headed by B. G. Boldyrev.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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