The Roman Empire levied various taxes against its subjects throughout its many provinces. First, a poll or head tax (tributum capitis) was a fixed amount that every person had to pay, according the registry of the latest census. Poll taxes fell on Roman subjects, not on Roman citizens, and subsequently provoked numerous revolts. Second, a land tax was charged based on how much land a person owned. Third, tolls were collected when particular highways were travelled. Finally, a temple tax was imposed specifically on Jews, which funded the operation and upkeep of the Temple in Jerusalem.

With all this money to be paid annually, the Roman Empire employed locals in every province to collect its taxes. Unfortunately, with the authority of the Empire and little accountability, tax collectors (telones) had a reputation for demanding more than what was due and pocketing the difference. And because they were fellow countrymen aligned with the occupying power, tax collectors were viewed as traitors for hire.