Revenue stamp

An 1899 passport tax stamp from Cundinamarca in Colombia.
An 1898 Western Australia revenue stamp for £1.

A revenue stamp, tax stamp or fiscal stamp is a (usually) adhesive label used to collect taxes or fees on documents, tobacco, alcoholic drinks, drugs and medicines, playing cards, hunting licenses, firearm registration, and many other things. Typically businesses purchase the stamps from the government, and attach them to taxed items as part of putting the items on sale, or in the case of documents, as part of filling out the form.

Revenue stamps often look very similar to postage stamps, and in some countries and time periods it has been possible to use postage stamps for revenue purposes.



Revenue stamps are stamps used to collect taxes and fees. They are issued by Governments, national and local, and by official bodies of various kinds. They take many forms and may be gummed and ungummed, peforated or imperforate, printed or embossed, and of any size. In many countries, they are as detailed in their design as banknotes and they are often made from the same type of paper. The high value of many revenue stamps means that they may contain security devices to prevent counterfeiting.

An American revenue stamp for the tax on playing cards.

The Revenue Society has defined revenue stamps as " ...stamps, whether impressed, adhesive or otherwise, issued by or on behalf of International, National or Local Governments, their Licensees or Agents, and indicate that a tax, duty or fee has been paid or prepaid or that permission has been granted." [1]


The use of revenue stamps goes back further than that of postage stamps (first used in 1840); the stamps of the Stamp Acts of the 18th century were revenues. Their use became widespread in the 19th century, partly inspired by the success of the postage stamp, and partly motivated by the desire to streamline government operations, the presence of a revenue stamp being an indication that the item in question had already paid the necessary fees. Revenue stamps have become less commonly seen in the 21st century, with the rise of computerization and the ability to use numbers to track payments accurately.

There are a great many kinds of revenue stamps in the world, and it is likely that some are still uncatalogued. Both national and local entities have issued them. In certain periods government have combined the uses of postage and revenue stamps, calling them "postal fiscals" or inscribing them "Postage and Revenue".

Methods of cancellation

While revenue stamps often resemble postage stamps, they are not normally intended for use on mail and therefore do not receive a postal cancellation. Some countries have issued stamps valid for both postage and revenue, but this practice is now rare. Many different methods have been used to cancel revenue stamps, including pen cancels, inked handstamps, perforating, embossing, hole punching or simply tearing.


Revenue stamps were once widely collected by philatelists and given the same status as postage stamps in stamp catalogs and at exhibitions. After World War One, however, they declined in popularity, possibly due to being excluded from catalogues as the number of postage stamps issued rose rapidly and crowded revenues out. Recently they have become popular again and they now have their own FIP (Fédération Internationale de Philatélie) Commission and are an approved category in FIP endorsed stamp exhibitions.[2]

Many catalogs have been issued by specialist publishers and dealers but it is true to say that revenue stamps still do not feature in the most popular catalogs, for instance the standard Scott, Stanley Gibbons and Michel catalogs, unless they are both revenue and postage stamps. The Scott specialised United States catalogue does feature US revenue stamps.

A Danish revenue stamp for spirits.

Some types of revenue stamps

Court fees

One of the earliest uses of revenue stamps was to pay Court Fees. Stamps were used in the Indian feudal states as early as 1797, almost 50 years before the first postal stamps.[3]

Although India is only one of several countries that have used tax stamps on legal documents, it was one of the most prolific users. The practice is almost entirely stopped now, partly due to the prevalence of forgeries which cost the issuing government revenue.[4]


The tax on documents, also commonly known as stamp duty, is one of the oldest uses of revenue stamps. Governments would enforce the payment of the tax by making unstamped documents unenforcable in court. The tax would apply to contracts, tenancy agreements, wills etc.

Tobacco and alcohol

In many countries, tobacco and alcohol are taxed by the use of excise stamps. For instance, the producer may buy stamps from the government which are then affixed to each bottle of alcohol or packet of cigarettes to show that tax has been paid. Often the stamp will be fixed across a seal so that on opening the pack or bottle the stamp is destroyed.[5]


See also

  • Impressed duty stamp
  • Stamped paper


  1. ^ Home. The Revenue Society, 2011. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  2. ^ FIP REVENUE COMMISSION Fédération Internationale de Philatélie 2011. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  3. ^ Court Fee and Revenue Stamps of the Princely States of India.
  4. ^ Court fee stamp racket busted, The Hindu, Sept. 10, 2003.
  5. ^ UK Duty Stamps Scheme. H.M. Revenue & Customs, May 2010. Retrieved 1 October 2011. Archived here.

Further reading

  • Catalogues by John Barefoot.
  • Catalogues by Alfred Forbin.
  • Catalogues by Walter Morley.
  • Akerman, Clive. The Presentation of Revenue Stamps: Taxes and Duties in South America. New edition. The Revenue Society of Great Britain, 2002.

Revenue philatelic societies

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • revenue stamp — ➔ stamp1 * * * revenue stamp UK US noun [C] ► TAX an official mark that is put on some goods to show that government tax has been paid: »Manufacturers of tobacco products have to attach a revenue stamp to each packet …   Financial and business terms

  • revenue stamp — n: a stamp for use as evidence of a tax (as on a package of cigarettes, a proprietary article, or a mortgage or deed): tax stamp Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam Webster. 1996 …   Law dictionary

  • revenue stamp — n. a stamp, as on a bottle of liquor, that shows a tax has been paid …   English World dictionary

  • revenue stamp — noun A stamp to affix as proof that the tax due on the marked product has been paid See Also: revenuer, revenue tax, food stamp …   Wiktionary

  • revenue stamp — government stamp on documents and official certificates, special stamp used on contracts …   English contemporary dictionary

  • revenue stamp — rev′enue stamp n. phi a stamp showing that a governmental tax has been paid • Etymology: 1860–65 …   From formal English to slang

  • revenue stamp — noun Date: 1862 a stamp (as on a cigar box) for use as evidence of payment of a tax …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • revenue stamp — a stamp showing that a governmental tax has been paid. [1860 65] * * * …   Universalium

  • revenue stamp — Fin a stamp that a government issues to certify that somebody has paid a tax …   The ultimate business dictionary

  • revenue stamp — noun a small piece of adhesive paper that is put on an object to show that a government tax has been paid • Syn: ↑stamp • Hypernyms: ↑sheet, ↑piece of paper, ↑sheet of paper …   Useful english dictionary

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