Open main menu

Stamp Act

legislation that requires a tax for certain documents

A stamp act is a law that puts a tax on the transfer of some documents. Those that pay the tax get an official stamp on their documents. Many products have been covered by stamp acts such as playing cards, patent medicines, cheques, mortgages, contracts and newspapers. The items often have to be physically stamped at approved government offices following payment of the duty, although other methods with annual payment of a fixed sum or purchase of adhesive stamps are more practical and common. Stamp acts have been made common in many countries, like Australia, China, Canada, Ireland, Malaysia, Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The money raised by the tax, called stamp duty, was first used in the Netherlands in 1624 after a public competition to find a new form of tax. However, it has more been used in Great Britain and its colonies.

The Stamp Act passed by the British Parliament on March 22, 1765 was upsetting to some American colonists. Colonists had to pay a tax on every piece of printed paper they used - ship's papers, legal documents, licences, newspapers and even playing cards were taxed. It was one of the causes of the American Revolutionary War.