Direct taxes, some of which were collected directly by the state, including the taille (a personal tax), capitation, and vingtieme (a form of income tax from which the nobles and officials were usually exempt). Indirect taxes, such as customs duties and tariffs, which were collected by government agents from merchants at ports of entry. These agents were called "douaniers" (customs officers)
The French monarch was the only person allowed to be exempted from taxation. Other subjects could petition for a tax exemption, but if their request was denied they could not protest the decision.
In 1789 the French people voted to abolish all forms of tax on food. This was one of the many measures taken by them during the French Revolution to make sure that everyone had enough money to live on. However, other taxes remained in place until 1879 when Napoleon III issued an amnesty allowing past taxes to be forgotten about.
After the death of Louis XVI, taxation became the main source of revenue for the new government under the Constitution of 1791. The government needed funds to pay its bills and maintain the army so it decided to raise money by imposing taxes. There were three main taxes: the taille (a tax on property values), the vente (a tax on sales) and the herbier (a tax on crops).
Members of the third estate were required to pay a direct tax to the state, known as "taille." Tobacco, salt, and a variety of other ordinary products were subjected to indirect taxes. The latter included tariffs on imports and consumption taxes on specific goods.
The taille was collected by the government from all taxpayers with an annual income over 200 francs (about $30,000 today). It was originally set at 1/8 of one percent of taxable property values but was never more than 2.5 percent. It was imposed regardless of how much a person earned or owned; if you were rich or poor, you paid the same amount.
It was not levied on churches or religious institutions and they were exempt from military service. However many members of the third estate did serve in the French army: priests were required to do so, while monks and nuns were often given special dispensations to be able to fight. There were also instances where people who were not members of the clergy served in non-combat roles with the army.
In addition to the taille, members of the third estate were also required to supply soldiers for duty with themselves. They could either work for the army for a certain number of days per year or pay a substitute who would serve in their place.
Nobles and clergy were mostly exempt from taxation, while commoners were subjected to disproportionately heavy direct taxes. One of the primary drivers of French administrative and royal centralization was the need for more effective tax collection. The taille became a significant source of royal revenue.
The French monarchy developed a reputation for being one of the most oppressive in Europe, if not the most oppressive. Its main instrument of coercion was the gendarmerie, which was responsible for maintaining public order throughout France. The monarchy also employed guards at its courts to prevent any form of resistance to their decisions.
Finally, the monarchy used torture as a method of interrogation and as a means of extracting information from suspects.
An indication of how highly taxed the French nobility was can be seen from the fact that only 1 out of 3 nobles was willing to serve in local government positions. These positions involved voting on issues before them; thus they were important for ensuring that tax demands were not ignored.
It is estimated that around one-third of all household income in France went towards paying taxes. This makes taxation one of the most significant factors behind the economic independence of the French nobility.
However, excessive taxation could lead to rebellion by causing widespread dissatisfaction with the monarchy. In 1789, after much debate, the French people voted to abolish the monarchy and create an empire based on France itself.
Clergy and nobility were exempt from the taille (with a few exceptions). The only tax they could be forced to pay was the gabelle, which was a salt tax designed to raise money for the Church.
French kings did not like being dependent on others for their income, which is why they started creating new taxes. They felt that if they had their own army, then they would be able to protect themselves from their feudal lords. At the end of the 11th century, all men between the ages of 20 and 60 were required by law to serve in King William II's military forces. Those who refused were subject to punishment by confiscation of property or imprisonment. The king also owned many large estates that provided him with an additional source of revenue. These lands were usually managed by a seneschal, who was responsible for collecting the rent and other revenues due from them.
It is likely that most noble families used loans from the crown or local merchants to keep up their lifestyles after becoming exempt from taxation. As these debts were never paid back, this put extreme pressure on the rest of the population to pay off their debt.