stamp tax, method of collecting duties on certain transactions by means of a validating stamp attached to the taxable instrument, which may be a judicial act, a commercial document, a transfer of property, or law proceedings. Such a stamp is to be distinguished from a postage stamp, which is not a duty but a simple method of paying the government for a service rendered. Stamp taxes, apparently originating in the Netherlands, were introduced into England in 1694 and extended to the American colonies in 1765. Colonial opposition to stamp taxes contributed to the hostility against England that eventually resulted in the American Revolution. In the United States, stamp taxes, applying not only to legal and commercial acts but also to goods, were used to finance the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. Today the federal government imposes stamp taxes on the issue and transfer of stocks and bonds, on deeds, and on playing cards.
See J. Due, Government Finance (4th ed. 1968); J. W. Pyke, ed., An Alphabetical Guide to Stamp Duties (1968).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.