A stamp act is any legislation that requires a tax to be paid on the
transfer of certain documents. Those who pay the tax receive an
official stamp on their documents, making them legal documents. A
variety of products have been covered by stamp acts including playing
cards, dice, patent medicines, cheques, mortgages, contracts, marriage
licenses and newspapers. The items often have to be physically stamped
at approved government offices following payment of the duty, although
methods involving annual payment of a fixed sum or purchase of
adhesive stamps are more practical and common.
This system of taxation was first devised in the
Netherlands in 1624
after a public competition to find a new form of tax. Stamp acts
have been enforced in many countries, including Australia, Canada,
People's Republic of China, Ireland, India, Malaysia, Israel, the
United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
The taxes raised under a stamp act are called stamp duty.
2 England and
United Kingdom Stamp Acts
2.1 Stamps Act 1694
2.2 Stamp Act 1712
2.3 Stamp Duties Management Act 1891 and Stamp Act 1891
2.4 The modern UK Stamp Act
4 People's Republic of China
5 United States
5.1 Stamp Act 1765
Stamps acts were enacted in various Australian states in 1878, 1882,
1886, 1890, and 1894, with amendments from 1892 to 1907. According
to these acts, stamps were required on many types of business
transactions: negotiable instruments, promissory notes, bills of
lading, and receipts.
In Western Australia, duties of this type were overhauled in the
Western Australian Stamp Act 1921, which took effect on 1 January
2010. In South Australia, the Stamp Duties Act 1923 was first
enacted in 1923, then revised or amended almost yearly until its
current version of 2017.
United Kingdom Stamp Acts
Stamps Act 1694
A stamp duty was first introduced in England in 1694 following the
Dutch model as An act for granting to Their Majesties several duties
on Vellum, Parchment and Paper for 10 years, towards carrying on the
France (5 & 6 Will. & Mar. c. 21). The duty
ranged between 1 penny to several shillings on a number of different
legal documents including insurance policies, documents used as
evidence in courts, grants of honour, grants of probate and letters of
administration. It raised around £50,000 a year and although it was
initially a temporary measure, it proved so successful that its use
Stamp Act 1712
Main article: Stamp Act 1712
The Stamp Act of 1712 was an act passed in the
United Kingdom on 1
August 1712 to create a new tax on publishers, particularly of
newspapers. The initial assessed rate of tax was one penny
per whole newspaper sheet, a halfpenny for a half sheet, and one
shilling per advertisement contained within. Other than newspapers,
it required that all pamphlets, legal documents, commercial bills,
advertisements, and other papers be issued the tax. The act was
increased in 1797 with greater taxes and wider spectrum of materials
affected, reached its height around 1815 during the "taxes on
knowledge" struggle, reduced in 1836, and repealed in 1855.
The stamp tax was a tax on each newspaper and thus hit cheaper papers
and popular readership harder than wealthy consumers, because it
formed a higher proportion of the purchase price. The act had a
chilling effect on publishers; the tax is blamed for the decline of
English literature critical of the government during the period,
notably with The Spectator ending the same year of the tax's
enactment. Its repeal in 1855 allowed a cheap press again.
Stamp Duties Management Act 1891 and Stamp Act 1891
All the above Acts were superseded by the Stamp Duties Management Act
1891 and the Stamp Act 1891, which still constitute the bulk of UK law
on stamp duties today.
The modern UK Stamp Act
From 1914 to 1928, the Director of Stamping at the Stamp Office
oversaw the production of Treasury Notes (a type of banknote, not to
be confused with US Treasury notes). These were issued for
denominations of £1 and 10's to enable coins to be removed from
circulation, and were not convertible to gold. Existing Bank of
England banknotes in higher denominations continued to circulate
alongside the Treasury Notes. In 1963 production of postage stamps
passed to the General Post Office.
Finance Act 1986
Finance Act 1986 introduced Stamp Duty Reserve Tax. From October
27, 1986, the charge was imposed on 'closing' transactions at the
London Stock Exchange
London Stock Exchange which until then had been transactions where no
document was used and therefore exempt from Stamp Duty.
A public display of
Stamp Office artifacts and records was held at the
Courtauld Institute in 1994 to commemorate the three hundredth
anniversary of the introduction of UK Stamp Duty. The
Stamp Office was
also awarded the
Charter Mark by John Major's Advisory Committee as a
reward for its public service.
Stamp duties are the oldest taxes still raised by the HM Revenue and
Main article: Taxation in Israel
Israel used to have a stamp duty on signed documents, which was
regulated by the 1961 "Stamp Tax on Documents" (Law 5731-1961),
the 1965 "Stamp Tax on Documents Regulations", and subsequent
Additions. The stamp duty was repealed as of 2006.
People's Republic of China
Main article: Taxation in China
As part of domestic taxation, the PRC includes a stamp tax as one of
the "behavioural taxes". Foreign investors are also subject to a stamp
tax. Stamp taxes in China are governed by "Provisional Regulations of
the People's Republic of China Concerning Stamp Tax Detailed Rules for
Its Implementation", implemented in 1988. In 1997, stamp taxes
produced revenue of 26.63 billion yuan and comprised 3.6% of China's
gross domestic product.
Stamp Act 1765
Main article: Stamp Act 1765
After Great Britain was victorious over
France in the Seven Years' War
– which manifested in America as the
French and Indian War
French and Indian War – a
small Stamp Act was enacted that covered of all sorts of documents.
Stamp Act 1765
Stamp Act 1765 (short title Duties in American Colonies Act 1765;
5 George III, c. 12) was a direct tax imposed by the British
Parliament on the colonies of British America. The act required that
many printed materials in the colonies be produced on stamped paper
produced in London and carrying an embossed revenue stamp.
These printed materials were on every legal document, magazine, and
newspaper, plus many other types of paper used throughout the
colonies, including playing cards. Unlike previous taxes, the
stamp tax had to be paid in valid British currency, not in colonial
The purpose of the tax was to help pay for troops stationed in North
America. The British government felt that the colonies were the
primary beneficiaries of this military presence, and the colonial
population should pay at least a portion of the expense. The colonists
claimed their constitutional rights were violated, since only their
own colonial legislatures could levy taxes. The colonies sent no
representatives to Parliament, and therefore had no influence over
what taxes were raised, how they were levied, or how they would be
spent. Some opponents of the Stamp Act distinguished between
"internal" taxes like the stamp duty, which they claimed Parliament
had no right to impose, and revenue legitimately raised through the
regulation on trade. In general, however, most colonists
considered the Act to be a violation of their rights as Englishmen to
be taxed without their consent – consent that only the colonial
legislatures could grant because Americans were unrepresented in
Parliament. The rallying cry of "No Taxation without Representation"
reflected an increasingly major grievance that led to the American
Revolution. The Americans saw no need for the troops or the taxes;
the British saw colonial defiance of their lawful rulers.
The Stamp Act met great resistance in the colonies. Colonial
assemblies sent petitions and protests. Local protest groups, led by
colonial merchants and landowners, established connections through
correspondence – the so-called "
Committees of Correspondence
Committees of Correspondence –
that created a loose coalition extending from New England to Georgia.
British goods were boycotted. Opposition to the tax also took
the form of violence and intimidation. Custom houses and tax
collectors were attacked. Protests and demonstrations initiated by
the newly formed
Sons of Liberty
Sons of Liberty often turned violent and destructive
as the masses became involved. A word used frequently by colonists was
"liberty" during the Stamp Act upheaval. Opponents of the new tax
staged mock funerals in which "liberty's" coffin was carried to a
burial ground. They insisted that liberty could not be "taken away
A more reasoned approach was taken by some elements. James Otis, Jr.
wrote the most influential protest, The Rights of the British Colonies
Asserted and Proved. Otis, the radical leader in Massachusetts,
convinced the Massachusetts assembly to send a circular letter to the
other colonies, which called for an inter-colonial meeting to plan
tempered resistance. The
Stamp Act Congress
Stamp Act Congress convened in New York City
on October 7, 1765, with nine colonies in attendance; others would
likely have participated if earlier notice had been provided. The
Stamp Act Congress
Stamp Act Congress was another step in the process of attempted common
Albany Congress in 1754 had been held at the
urging of royal officials as a forum for voicing constitutional
concerns and afforded the more conservative critics of British policy
some hope of regaining control of events from the unruly mobs in the
streets of many cities; in contrast, the
Stamp Act Congress
Stamp Act Congress was
strictly a colonial affair, reflecting the first significant joint
colonial response to any British measure. Delegates to the Stamp Act
Congress approved a fourteen-point Declaration of Rights and
Grievances as a petition to the Parliament and the King, formulated
largely by John Dickinson of Pennsylvania. The statement echoed the
recent resolves of the Virginia House of Burgesses, which argued that
colonial taxation could only be carried on by their own
assemblies. The delegates singled out the Stamp Act and the use of
the vice-admiralty courts for special criticism, yet ended their
statement with a pledge of loyalty to the King.
Opposition to the Stamp Act was not limited to the colonies. In
Canada, Nova Scotia largely ignored the Act; they allowed ships
bearing unstamped papers to enter its ports, and business continued
unabated after the distributors ran out of stamps. Newfoundland
experienced some protests and petitions based on legislation dating
back to the reign of Edward VI forbidding any sort of duties on the
importation of goods related to its fisheries. The Caribbean
colonies also protested. Political opposition was expressed in a
number of colonies, including
Barbados and Antigua, and by absentee
landowners living in Britain. The worst violence took place on St.
Kitts and Nevis, with rioting and blockage of stamp delivery.
Antigua also succeeded in avoiding the use of stamps.
Jamaica there was also vocal opposition, and much evasion of the
stamps. British merchants and manufacturers, whose exports to the
colonies were threatened by colonial boycotts, also pressured
The act was repealed in early 1766, although the Declaratory Act
maintained Parliament's right to tax the colonies.
Main article: Revenue stamps of the United States
"Revenue stamps" were revived in the United States during the American
Civil War. In 1862, the United States (Union) government began taxing
a variety of goods, services, and legal dealings, in an effort to
raise revenue for the great costs of the war. To confirm that
taxes were paid a "revenue stamp" was purchased and appropriately
affixed to the taxable item. This excise tax continued until the
federal government finished paying the war debt in 1883, at which time
the tax was repealed.
In 1898, revenue stamps were again issued, to provide funding for the
Spanish–American War. Tax was levied on a wide range of goods and
services including alcohol, tobacco, tea, and other amusements and
also on various legal and business transactions such as stock
certificates, bills of lading, manifests, and marine insurance. To pay
these tax duties revenue tax stamps were purchased and affixed to the
taxable item or respective certificate.
Revenue stamps were issued at irregular intervals for alcohol
products, tobacco products, matches, proprietary medicines, and
perfumes. Revenue stamps were finally discontinued on December 31,
^ Dagnall, H. (1994) Creating a Good Impression: three hundred years
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^ a b Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, Melbourne (1908).
Official Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia, Containing
Authoritative Statistics for the period 1901-1907 and Corrected
Statistics for the period 1788 to 1900. No. 1.-1908. Melbourne,
Australia: McCarron, Bird & Co. pp. 675–676.
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^ Russell, David Lee (2000). The
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reliability (PDF), Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, p. 14
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^ Weinsteiger, Brigitte. "Colonial American Timeline". Building
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