Vicesima hereditatium

The Vicesima hereditatium was a Roman 5% tax on inheritance money.


No inheritance tax was recorded for the Roman Republic, despite abundant evidence for testamentary law. The vicesima hereditatium ("twentieth of inheritance") was levied by Rome's first emperor, Augustus, in the last decade of his reign.[1] The 5% tax applied only to inheritances received through a will, and close relatives were exempt from paying it, including the deceased's grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren, and siblings.[2] The question of whether a spouse was exempt was complicated—from the late Republic on, husbands and wives kept their own property scrupulously separate, since a Roman woman remained part of her birth family and not under the legal control of her husband.[3] Roman social values on marital devotion probably exempted a spouse.[4] Estates below a certain value were also exempt from the tax, according to one source,[5] but other evidence indicates that this was only the case in the early years of Trajan's reign.[6]


  1. ^ Jane Gardner, "Nearest and Dearest: Liability to Inheritance Tax in Roman Families," in Childhood, Class and Kin in the Roman World pp. 205, 213.
  2. ^ Gardner, "Liability to Inheritance Tax," pp. 205, 211.
  3. ^ Gardner, "Liability to Inheritance Tax," p. 214; see further Bruce W. Frier and Thomas A.J. McGinn, A Casebook on Roman Family Law (Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 19–20, and Beryl Rawson, "The Roman Family in Italy" (Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 15–18.
  4. ^ Gardner, "Liability to Inheritance Tax," p. 214.
  5. ^ Cassius Dio 55.25.5.
  6. ^ Gardner, "Liability to Inheritance Tax," p. 205.