Stamp Out Stamp Duty!

Published: 06/05/2024 By Allan Fuller

A cry often heard, but this is an easy tax to collect, and it raises a vast revenue for the government.  

The history is fascinating. Stamp Duty was first introduced in England on 28 June 1694, during the reign of William III and Mary II, under "An act for granting to their Majesties several duties upon vellum, parchment and paper, for four years, towards carrying on the war against France" So we can blame the French!
 In the 1702/03 financial year 3,932,933 stamps were embossed in England for a total value of £91,206.10s.4d. Stamp duty was so successful that it continues to this day through a series of Stamp Acts. Similar duties have been levied in the Netherlands, France and elsewhere.

During the 18th and early 19th centuries, stamp duties were extended to cover newspapers, pamphlets, lottery tickets, apprentices' indentures, advertisements, playing cards, dice, hats, gloves, patent medicines, perfumes, insurance policies, gold and silver plate, hair powder and armorial bearings.
The attempted enforcement of the Stamp Act 1765 in the British colonies in America led to the outcry of "no taxation without representation". The argument over stamp duty contributed to the outbreak of the American War of Independence.

Fast forward to the present day and Stamp duty land tax (SDLT) is a tax on land transactions in England and Northern Ireland. It was introduced by the Finance Act 2003. It largely replaced stamp duty with effect from 1 December 2003. SDLT is not a stamp duty, but a form of self-assessed transfer tax charged on "land transactions".

In Wales Stamp Duty on property was renamed  Land Transaction Tax in  2018, a far clearer name. Revenue from the tax peaked in 2017-2018 at £12.91 billion, it has slipped a little since, but given the amount this tax brings in to the Treasury don’t expect any great changes to come in the future.