STAMPS, STAMP ACTS. Stamps are impressions made upon paper or parchment by the government or its of ficers for the purposes of revenue. They always denote the price of the particular stamp, or in other words, the tax levied upon a particular instrument stamped, and sometimes they denote the nature of the instrument itself. If the instrument is written upon paper, the stamp is im pressed in relief upon the paper itself; but to a parchment instrument the stamp is attached by paste and a small piece of lead which itself forms part of the im pression. These stamps are easily forged, and at various times forgeries of them upon a large scale have been discovered. The punishment for the forgery of stamps was made a capital offence b7 the Act of William and Mary, and continued so un til the year 1830 (11 Gee. IV. & 1 Wm. I V. c. 66), when it was made punishable by transportation.
In France stamps are used both for the authentication of instruments and as a source of revenue.
The stamp tax was introduced into this country in the reign of William and Mary 5 W. & M. c. 21): such an impost had previously existed in Holland. The Act 5 W. & M. c. 21, imposes stamps upon grants from the crown, diplomas, con tracts, probates of wills and letters of ad ministration, and upon all writs, proceed ings, and records in courts of law and equity ; it does not, however; seem to im pose stamps upon deeds, unless they are enrolled in the courts at Westminster or other courts of record. Two years after wards, however, conveyances,'deeds, and leases were subjected to the stamp'cluty, and by a series of acts in the succeeding reigns every instrument recording a transaction between two individuals Was subjected to a stamp duty before it could be used in a court of justice. By the 38 Geo. III. c. 78, a stamp duty is imposed on newspapers, and by a subsequent act inventories and appraisements are re quired to be stamped. Legacies are largely taxed by means of stamped re ceipts. Stamps are also used as a conve •neat method of imposing a tax upon a particular class of persons : thus, articles of apprenticeship are subject to duty, and articles of clerkship to a solicitor to a tax of 120/. Solicitors are required to take out
annually a certificate, stamped either with a 12/., 81., or 61.. stamp according to cir cumstances. Before a person commences practice as a physician, an advocate, a barrister-at-law, or an attorney, he must pay a tax varying from 501. to 101., under the firm of a stamp upon admission. Notaries public, bankers, pawnbrokers, and others, must obtain a yearly licence in order to exercise their callings.
The schedule to the Act 55 Geo. III. o. 124, which consolidates all the previous acts, occupies nearly 100 octavo pages. Since the year 1815 the stamp duties have been mitigated. The 5 Geo. IV. c. 4I, exempts law proceedings from stamps ; and the stamps upon newspapers were reduced from fourpence to a penny by 6 & 7 Wm. IV. o. 76 (1836), which duty exempts the paper from postage. As to the stamp duties on advertisements and newspapers, see ADVERTISEMENTS and NEWSPAPERS.
In order to protect the revenue, the stamp acts usually impose a penalty upon any fraudulent evasion of their provi sions ; and the 44 Geo. III. c. 98 enacts that the proceedings shall be in the name of the attorney-general in England, or the king's advocate in Scotland, and that the penalty shall go entirely to the crown, The acts render an unstamped imtra ment invalid, and in order to increase the revenue they multiply the number of instruments to authenticate any action. Hence the stamp acts have given rise to many questions in courts of law as to the amount of stamps required for par ticular instruments, the nature of those stamps, the effect which the insufficiency or erroneous nature of the stamp may produce upon the instrument, and the use which may be made in a court of justice of a paper not I,III nevertheless 7111.• questionabl \ 1.4 particular feet.