In Zola's Rougon-Macquart novels, specifically La Fortune des Rougon, set in December 1851, around the time of Napoleon III's coup d'etat, Pierre Rougon seeks to obtain the post of "receveur particulier" for the town of Plassans.

Given his ambitions, this is clearly a lucrative appointment, but I cannot find a clear picture of what its duties would have been and what opportunities it would have brought for personal enrichment.

1 Answer 1


The book Traité des impôts en France: considérés sous le rapport du droit, de l'économie politique et de l'économie politique by Edouard Vignes (3rd edition, 1872) discusses the tax system in France in the second half of the 19th century. 1872 is admittedly a bit later than the year in which the novel is set, but apparently the tax system did not change much in those years.

Pages 83-84 explain that each department has an office that is in charge of collecting taxes and that this office consists of the following persons:

[une agence composée : ]
D'un trésorier-payeur général ;
D'un receveur particulier par arrondissement,
Et de plusieurs percepteurs.

(The "arrondissement" is a subdivision of the "département" and is overseen by a "sous-préfet" or subprefect.)

The book also specifies their "émoluments" (fees, emoluments):

Pour les trésoriers-payeurs généraux et les receveurs particuliers, en un traitement fixe de 6,000 fr. pour les premiers, et de 2,400 francs pour les seconds, en même temps qu'en taxations et bonifications sur le produit des impôts ;
Pour les percepteurs, en remises qui leur sont allouées sur le montant des contributions qu'ils recouvrent.
Les trésoriers-payeurs généraux, les receveurs particuliers et les percepteurs fournissent au Trésor un cautionnement dont la quotité est déterminée d'après l'importance de leurs recettes. Elle est, pour les trésoriers-payeurs généraux, de six fois le montant de leurs émoluments de toute nature, et pour les receveurs particuliers, de cinq fois leurs émoluments. (Loi du 13 juillet 1867, art. 28.)

So a "receveur particulier" was essentially a tax collector for a specific arrondissement. They receive an income of 2,400 francs (per year, presumably); in addition, they get a "bonus" ("bonification") based on the taxes they collect, and they get a "discount" ("remise") on their own taxes. Presumably, the bonus could lead to abuse (extorting more money from tax payers) if the trésorier-payeur général didn't check the tax figures too closely.

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