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SO6 - A short History of Stamp Duties

  We have produced this leaflet for our many customers who have expressed an interest in the history of Stamp Duty.



Although the existence of a form of Stamp Duty can be traced back to Roman times, most historians agree that in its current form it originated in the Netherlands in 1624. This was as the result of a competition to find a new form of tax. There is no record of the inventor’s name but the winning idea required that certain legal documents be written on stamped paper.



Stamp Duty was first introduced into this country in 1694 during the reign of William and Mary as ‘An act for granting to Their Majesties several duties on Vellum, Parchment and Paper for 4 years, towards carrying on the war against France’

The duties proved so successful that they were continued.

The duty ranged from 1 penny to 40 shillings on a very wide variety of documents. These included insurance policies, documents in court proceedings, grants of honour, grants of probate and letters of administration. The earliest Stamp Duty yields were about 50,000 a year.


The attempted imposition of Stamp Duties in America was met with opposition throughout the colonies. Protest meetings were held and the outcry of ‘no taxation without representation’ was raised. The arrival of ships bearing consignments of stamped papers was attended by major rioting - the most well known being the Boston Tea Party.

Consignments of stamped paper were burned and every appointed distributor was forced to resign.


Ad valorem (meaning according to the value) Stamp Duty was introduced on grants of probate and letters of administration.


In his budget speech that year, William Pitt described Stamp Duty as a tax ‘easily raised, pressing little on any particular class, especially the lower orders of society, and producing a revenue safely and expeditiously collected at small expense’. He added that there had not been any considerable increases in Stamp Duty for some years... then virtually doubled the tax!


Stamp Duty was first imposed on conveyances on sale. At the same time duties in England and Scotland were made equal.


Under the Stamp Act of 1815, ad valorem duty was extended to more categories of documents. The yield for that year was about 3,250,000.


William Wordworth was Distributer of Stamps for Westmoreland.

Little is known of his official activities, but it appears from an official report that he had charge of a fair-sized area and was very prompt in the performance of his duties.


The first adhesive postage stamp, Penny Black, was introduced at the suggestions of Rowland Hill. The responsibility for supplying new postage stamps fell on the Stamps and Taxes Departmant.


Stamp Duties payable in Ireland were brought into line with those in the rest of the UK.


In this year 3 laws relating to Stamp Duty were passed

  • the Stamp Act
  • the Stamp Duties Management Act
  • the Inland Revenue Appeal Act.


All these Acts were superseded by the Stamp Duties Management Act 1891 and the Stamp Act 1891 which still constitute the present law on Stamp Duties.


The Director of Stamping supervised the production of the first Treasury Notes (later called banknotes).


Responsibility for prodction of banknotes passed from the Department to the Bank of England.


Responsibility for the production of postage stamps passed to the Post Office.


The 1986 Finance Act introduced Stamp Duty Reserve Tax. From 27 October 1986 the charge was imposed on Stock Exchange ‘closing’ transactions, certain transactions where no document was used and certain transactions exempt from Stamp Duty.


A public exhibition of Stamp Office artefacts and memorabilia was held in the Coutaulds Institute to commemorate the tercentenary of the introduction of Stamp Duty. In that same year the Stamp Office was awarded the Charter Mark by the Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee in recognition of excellence in public service.

Today Stamp Duties are the oldest tax administered by the Board of Inland Revenue. And while not the most important in terms of volume, they nevertheless raise upwards of 1 billion every year efficiently and inexpensively.



Documents for stamping should be taken or sent to any of the following Stamp Offices.


You can contact any of the Stamp Offices listed below.

Our staff will be pleased to help you.

Stamp Office addresses, telephone numbers and opening hours

Belfast Stamp Office
Ground Floor
Dorchester House
52-58 Great Victoria Street
Belfast BT2 7QE

DX: 2003 Belfast 2
Telephone: 028 90 505127
Fax: 028 90 505130
Opening Hours: 9:30am-1pm and
2pm-4pm Monday to Friday


London Stamp Office
Personal callers only
Ground Floor
South West Wing
Bush House
London WC2B 4QN

Telephone: 020 7 438 7252/7452
Fax: 020 7 438 7302
Opening Hours: 9:30am-4:30pm
Monday to Friday

Birmingham Stamp Office
5th Floor
Norfolk House
Smallbrook Queensway
Birmingham B5 4LA

DX: 15001 Birmingham 1
Telephone: 0121 633 3313
Fax: 0121 643 8381
Opening Hours: 9:30am-4pm
Monday to Friday


Worthing Stamp Office
Postal applications only
Room 35
East Block
Barrington Road
Worthing BN12 4XJ

DX 3799 Worthing 1
Telephone: 01903 508962
Fax: 01903 508953

Bristol Stamp Office
First Floor
The Pithay
All Saints Street
Bristol BS1 2NY

DX: 7899 Bristol 1
Telephone: 0117 927 2022
Fax: 0117 925 3599
Opening Hours: 9:30am-4pm
Monday to Friday


Manchester Stamp Office
Upper 5th Floor
Royal Exchange
Exchange Street
Manchester M2 7EB

DX: 14430 Manchester 2
Telephone: 0161 834 8020
Fax: 0161 834 9503
Opening Hours: 9:30am-4pm Monday to Friday

Edinburgh Stamp Office
Grayfield House, Spur X,
5 Bankhead Avenue
Edinburgh EH11 4AE

DX: ED 543303 Edinburgh 33
(DX mail for Edinburgh should be marked with a blue cross on the envelope)
Telephone: 0131 442 3161
Fax: 0131 442 3038
Opening Hours: 9:30am-4pm
Monday to Friday


Newcastle Stamp Office
4th Floor
Weardale House
Tyne & Wear
NE37 1LW

DX 61021 Newcastle-Upon-Tyne

Tel: 0191 261 1199
Fax: 0191 201 7392
Opening Hours: 9:30am-4pm
Monday to Friday



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