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Taxing Westeros

30th Apr 2015
Tax Consultant freelance
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It must greatly frustrate readers of AccountingWEB that the creators of worlds of fantasy give such sketchy details about their financial and fiscal systems.

As armies sway back and forth across Westeros, what happens to the currency (surely there must be something – Tyrion can’t just have an account at all those brothels).

There does seem to be a certain amount of carrying little bags of coin about though having the wrong king’s head on them could mean trouble.

Back in 2007 Terry Pratchett gave a strong hint that now Moist von Lipwig had sorted out the banking system in Ankh-Morpork he would be moving on to organise taxation. Even the title, Raising Taxes, was mentioned, but it never happened (did CMOT Dibbler see it coming ?) and sadly never will now.

Ankh-Morpork stands as an absolute bastion of free enterprise, and one might suppose that the aristocracy of the city would be about as keen to pay taxes as their counterparts in the rest of the multiverse (domiciled in Ankh-Morpork ? Moi ?).

Clearly they do not believe in publicly funded infrastructure as far as sewerage goes though the system of communication, the Clack towers, seems to be publicly funded since passing into the hands of the Post Office.

Stephen Hawking would explain that, of course, in the multiverse there must be universes where everyone enjoys paying taxes.

Even less likely, perhaps, than those universes where Zayn Malik is still a member of One Direction. What really stretches credulity, though, is the one where George Osborne is a member of One Direction.

But if Ankh-Morpork is in the early capitalist period, most fantasy worlds, more or less by definition, are feudal or quasi-feudal societies, so the requirement is likely to be to supply service or to pay in kind by supplying fighting men or agricultural produce rather than actually completing a tax return.

Tolkein never explains the fiscal system operating in Middle Earth, not even in one of his appendices, though it appears to be based on a gold standard essentially controlled by Dwarfs.

It may well be their different attitudes to money that is at the bottom of the antipathy between Dwarfs and Elves. And the Shire is oddly free of oppressive landlords and grasping landowners (at least until the Mordor-sponsored takeover which Frodo and the others find on their return).

Science Fiction doesn’t do much better, though Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress has a shot at a worked out anarchist system. Most traditional American SF is strictly libertarian in approach : you could compile mentions of taxes but always in the context of evasion. And we might do well to remember that Zaphod Beeblebrox once spent a year dead for tax reasons.

Closer to home, do wizards pay muggle taxes? And how is Hogwarts financed? Does it have charitable status? All unanswered questions.

But in one case we shall see (eventually). Stannis Baratheon has arranged substantial finance from the Iron Bank of Bravos.

This may not be a good long term arrangement and the penalties for default may be quite severe.

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By Antony Rose
30th Apr 2015 12:41

Reports of Zaphod's death are exaggerated

It was Hotblack Desiato.

Sorry, I'll try to get out more.

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By Rachael White
30th Apr 2015 14:02

Just some musings on how Hogwarts is financed: 

Magic would reduce overheads greatly (cleaning, etc can be taken care of without cost)As could slave labour such as the house elves (Dobby and co)Potential public funding by the Ministry of Magic. Kids also pay tuition fees, for books, animals, etcSome teachers double up on duties i.e. they look after certain houses (Gryffindor etc) as well as teachProbably receives donations from successful past pupils

Also as to whether wizards pay muggle taxes, I presume the ones who use muggle facilities would do so but if not they could always get past the authorities via a confundus charm. They have the Ministry to pay taxes to, so it wouldn't make sense to double up. 

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By Old Greying Accountant
30th Apr 2015 15:20

I have no idea ...

... who or what Westeros is. I do not feel diminished by this, although I do by the prospect of no more Discworld yarns after the last one is published in the autumn.

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