Stamps, Revenue [105]

The Barefoot catalog lists 44 categories of revenue stamps in use at various time in Ireland through today. This covers everything from Admiralty Court to Unemployment. The actual listing of stamps fills 14 pages. The reasons for the great number of stamps was that the Irish (or rather the British administration in Ireland) did things differently than in mainland Britain. Rates, and the rationale for the tax or charges differed. Many of these were carried over after independence. In this article, all types cannot be covered due to volume. Rather, a sample of some of the interesting stamps are shown.

General Receipt or General Service Revenue stamps were used to show tax was paid on a wide number of dutiable events. (Figure 1). The Draft Payable or Receipt (Figure 2) usage is apparent from the title. Figure 3 is the 1d Inland Revenue stamp of 1860 for general receipts. Since Victorian England micro-managed fiscal matters, it was felt that each receipt should identify what it paid. This sounds easy, but with the large number of taxes, it would strain the stamping office, and cause additional expense.

The solution was the use of “key” type stamps which started appearing in 1867. The larger portion of the stamp with the reigning sovereign’s image was the same on all stamps. The reason for the taxation was located in a box at the bottom of the stamp which could be easily changed as appropriate, and, of course, the rate, was usually in the center. While dull to look at, it save quite a bit of money by not having to create new designs for various usages and to meet rate changes. (Figure 4) shows Queen Victoria on a County Court stamp. When the ruler changed, a new master section was created, but the inserts remained the same. With the death of Queen Victoria, her son, King Edward VII now appeared on stamps (Figure 5). Likewise, on his death, King George V appeared in the center. (Figure 6).

The Irish Provisional Government was created in 1922, and the Irish continued the taxes but overprinted the stamps for the Rialtas Sealdach na h’Eireann. (Figure 7). In 1923, when the Free State was ratified, overprints with Saorstat Eireann appeared. (Figure 8).

With the Civil War behind, and the Free State government functioning, the symbols of British rule rapidly disappeared, and the portrait of the King was replaced by the Irish national symbol of the Harp. (Figure 9). Use of key plates continued, but in many cases, the tax was now identified in Irish in the box.


A few of the tax stamps seen:

County Court costs were paid by means of tax stamps.(Figure 10)

Unemployment taxes cover payments when one was out of work. (Figure 11)

National Insurance provided coverage for health issues in the government-run hospitals.(Figure 12 )

Land Commission was charged with breaking up large absentee-landlord estates and returning properties to the rightful owners. This involved extensive research into land usage and family heritage to determine the proper owners.(Figure 13). Note the ornate perfin cancel.

One often seen revenue was the use on personal checks. It was later incorporated in the check itself by the printer and included in the price of the checks. (Figure 14) This example is taken from a check.

Television tax stamp for use in monthly tax installment booklets. (Figure 15).

Many revenue stamps gradually disappeared over time(but the taxes remained). Cash-register-type receipts were used for a while, and computers claimed a few more. Today some revenue stamps have survived and are in daily usage.

If you happen to visit Dublin, the Revenue Museum is located in the Crypt of Dublin Castle.



British Commonwealth Revenues, J. Barefoot, Ltd, 5th Ed. 1996.

Irish Fiscal Stamps 1922 to Date. TheRevenue Commissioners, Dublin.

Great Britain, Volume 1, Queen Victoria, Stanley Gibbons, Ltd, Norwood, UK, 10th Ed, 1992.