Notes on the Commonwealth of

Australian Tax Instalment Stamps



Dave Elsmore


The most collated listing available to the collector of these stamps is in ‘The Revenue Stamps of the Commonwealth of Australia and its Territories’ by Bill Craig 1986. I have obtained additional information [2004] which I will now share with you. I would recommend you consult the above publication. I will also attempt to update the listings. But first let me start at the beginning.

In a letter dated 8 February 1940 reads: “Following the recent Sydney conference, it is thought that the experience of this office [Taxation Office] in the printing and general use of Tax Instalment Stamps may prove of some assistance in designing a Commonwealth stamp”.  With these recommendations “The denominations in each corner, values less than 1/- to be shown in red with values over 1/- in black” etc. A specimen sheet of current tax stamps from Victoria was shown and was duly noted the 5/- 5/4 & 6/- bear certain resemblance which should be avoided in the production of a Commonwealth stamp. At this date in time, stamp checkers relied solely on the colour of the stamp, as stamps presented were often mutilated and heavily cancelled to the point of obliteration with dates and initials, so the identification of values was most difficult.

Also mentioned at the conference and very important, “High value Tax stamps from Victoria were merely regular duty stamps overprinted for this special purpose”. Other states followed this practice but only low values are recorded. I would like to place on record a £1/10 £2 & £5 [fig 1] duty stamps overprinted in two lines “TAX INSTALLMENT NOT TRANSFERABLE” all perf 11 from Victoria. The £5 was the highest denomination used of any State prior to 1943. I have a used copy of this £5 in my collection.


Fig 1

Unrecorded £5 Victoria

The 1933 Victorian Tax Act provided that every stamp shall have the words “Tax Instalment” on them, hence the 1933 Victorian duty stamps so overprinted [fig 2], prior to purpose stamps also printed and issued in 1933. So you can see why the overprinted duty stamps are rare.


Fig 2

1933 Overprinted Victorian Duty Stamp usage mixed with purpose stamps

The Commonwealth stamps were not to be overprinted except with the name of the State of issue. All the suggestions above were forwarded as to give ample time for the designing of the stamps “whether they are bought into use this year 1940, or next year”.

 Although agreeing to a joint Income Tax stamp it appears WA tried to make it difficult by requesting “They will press strongly that all such Commonwealth stamps be printed within the State”. I believe WA wanted to incorporate their Hospital Fund Stamps within their Tax system, as they were jointly using two issues [fig3]. One to pay the tax [Financial Emergency Tax] the other to pay their Hospital Fund Contribution [Hospital Fund Tax].


Fig 3

Joint usage of two Revenue Stamps

WA went to great lengths to convince the Commonwealth, even if it prints stamps the size of the 1d postage stamp it was willing to “adapt their machinery” to be able to print stamps of postage stamp size, or if necessary of the same size thereabouts, and if the Commonwealth is not ready to come in by July 1940, the State [WA] must print stamps soon for it’s own use and find some new design. The Government of WA states clearly it wants to avoid retrenchments in the Government printing and distribution staff.

 In his reply Mr. Jackson [Commissioner of Taxation] states quite clearly he cannot give any of these points merit and states “You will readily appreciate the difficulties in agreeing to the proposals from your State” [WA] and will recommend stamps are printed by the Commonwealth and shall recommend the adoption of stamps [fig 4] of the same size and shape as the present Commonwealth Postage stamps.


Fig 4

Accepted undated Die Proof

 By September 1940 the Commonwealth had proposed to introduce a plan for the collection of Tax stamps and would adopt similar to that employed by the States of Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia & Tasmania which require certain taxpayers to purchase tax instalment stamps on pay days. Why Queensland and New South Wales was left off the list is not known. All stamps were to be sold on or after 1 January 1941. 100,000,000 stamps were printed in these denominations: 3d 4d 6d 8d 9d  1/- 2/- 3/- 4/- 5/- 6/- 7/- 8/- 9/- 10/- 12/- 14/- 15/- 16/- 18/- £1 £2. With a face value of £27,000,000 it was estimated that 37,000,000 stamps with a face value of approximately £10,000,000 will be sold during the first 12 months. I am amazed with these printing quantities that so few have survived to the point of just a handful of some values. This may be due to the fact some individuals had two or more jobs using different names and only submitting one name [tax book] to taxation.

On 19 September 1940, a conference was held at the office of the Commonwealth Note and Stamp Printer between the Printer W.C.G. McCracken, Chief Inspector of Finance Mr. D.R. McLean, P.M.G’s Department Messer’s H.B. Jackson and E.E. Dimsey, with the object of deciding the colour in which each tax instalment stamp is to be printed.

It was explained by Mr. McCracken that pale colours, such as yellow and green, could be easily changed by chemical treatment to darker colours, black, blue etc.   With the colours selected Mr. McCracken would be notified in writing with the number to be printed in each denomination, and the number to be printed for each state.   Later that day a further meeting took place with the P.M.G. department to discuss the distribution of the stamps. It was explained that in the G.P.O. a special counter would be utilized for selling the stamps to employers who require large quantities. The printer was to keep six months supply on hand as with postage stamps.

The official chosen colours for the original set are as follows: 3d Rosene, 4d  Brown, 6d Grey, 8d Lavender, 9d Brown, 1/- Pink, 2/- Blue, 3/- Black, 4/- Dark Green, 5/- Light Blue, 6/- Red, 7/- Rosene, 8/- Dark Purple, 9/- Bright Green, 10/- Bright Purple, 12/- Light Brown, 14/- Nut Brown, 15/- Blue, 16/- Orange-Red, 18/- Light Green, £1 Purple-Brown £2 Yellow. Denomination colours were to be: 3d to 9d Green, 1/- to 9/- Red, 10/- to 18/- Black, £1 & £2 Blue. With the State overprint 3d to 9d Red, 1/- to 9/- Black, 10/- to £2 Red.   Printing orders from the States started arriving by September 1940 in preparation for issue.

By mid November Queensland had realised taxpayers would not be able to meet the exact amount of stamps in certain payments and would be forced to either underpay or overpay the amount which would necessitate either the issue of two receipts or the issue of a receipt and a refund which would involve “considerable work”. Queensland went on to recommend additional denominations to be added to the list, a 1d and 3d.

Queensland received a reply a week later with the Commissioner of Taxation stating the stamps were chosen so they can be purchased of a face value equivalent to the deductions required by law, but also went on to say “He may print a limited number of additional denominations which will be required and to determine the question in the light of the facts represented by sales of those denominations”. Sounds like a reply from John Howard during question time!

As with most revenue issues, various values were added as required, many issues overlapped awaiting the exhaustion of earlier issues.

Three days after the issue date the Treasurer received a letter from the United Graziers Association of Queensland pointing out “the average station hand earns £3 a week plus £1 keep, assuming, of course, that he has no dependents he will be required to contribute at the rate of 2/- per week. If we take a month that only has 30 days in it, however, and four Sundays, we find that employees will be entitled to be credited with 26 days earnings, or 4 and two sixth weeks, the tax on 4 weeks earnings is 8/- the necessary deduction can be made from the employees earnings with the correct amount of tax stamps delivered to him. In the case of one third of a week, however, the tax would be 8d and the lowest denomination stamp available in Queensland was 6d. Therefore it becomes impracticable to adjust the tax on one third of a week. This could easily be coped with if the Government were to print both 1d & 3d stamps”.

In light of this letter it is obvious Qld did not order or was not sent 3d stamps. The letter also pointed out the need for lower denominations where shearers worked for several employees per week.

By 15 January 1941 the Treasurer [A. W. Fadden] replied to the Glaziers Assn stating there is no need for lower denominations as part weeks are paid in two of more separate sums, if the employee only works a part week with earning below £3.17.0 no deductions are warranted under the Tax Act.

It took till 11 June 1941 for additional denominations to be added. It was requested that printed specimens of each of the new denominations, 1d 2d 10d 11/- 13/- 17/- & £5 be sent to the Tax Office for completion of the “Specimen Stamp Register”, boy wouldn’t that be a nice addition to ones collection!. As most of us know the 10d has only been recorded used in Victoria. This date is also responsible for the 3/- change of colour. The official request read “Arrangements are to be made to change the colour of the 3/- stamp from black to some bright colour” which ended up being Bistre. I have recorded this 3/- from Vic., S.A., Tas. & N.T.

I have exhausted my contacts and have no information at this time on who designed the £5 and who ordered the watermark change on the £5. One can assume it was left to the printer to come up with a design. Only one known photographic essay is recorded.


Fig 5

WA £5 Essay   -    The Issued design

On the 23 July 1941 brought a letter from the Committee of Waterside Employees Queensland to the Commissioner of Taxation in Brisbane, asking for a flat rate of 9d in the pound for its employees. This special 9d in the pound was agreed to on 30 July 1941. Qld still had no supplies of 3d or 9d tax stamps but did have the new 1d & 2d stamps so another letter from the Committee of Waterside Employees, complaining it takes far too long to lick 3 stamps per employee per week! [1d 2d & 6d].

A telegram dated 28 July 1941 from Canberra to Taxation in Brisbane saying 200,000 9d stamps are on their way to Brisbane with 100,000 being distributed to Brisbane and the other 100,000 to go to other ports in the State according to importance.

An important reply from the Land and Income Tax Office Brisbane dated 2 Sept 1941 is replying to the 2 June letter from the Commissioner of Taxation reads: “I desire to point out it will be necessary to adjust this State’s requirements as from the 1 October 1941 assuming of course the one stamp will be used in connection with both the State and Federal deductions when the Tax Instalment system comes into operation for the State purposes in October next”. It is also noted no 9/- or 17/- was intended to be printed for this State. One combined State and Federal deductions in one salary range amounts to 19/-, and it is proposed to use a 10/- and a 9/- stamp. An extra 180,000 stamps was also requested.

A 19/- stamp was not made available to any State at this time. This tells us why the 19/- is the hardest value to find. It was not until early 1942 the 19/- was added to the series and sent to all the States. By this time all states had all the issued denominations except the 10d only went to Victoria and no £5 for N.T.


Fig 6

Stock List note sheets of 80

It must also be made clear ‘Bill Craig’ is correct in his assumption only NSW imprinted stamps were to be used in the Australian Capital Territory.


Fig 7

Rejected Die Proof 14/4/42

In April 1943 the above design was rejected and a new se-tenant system was under way. Tax stamp stock held by the printer was to be used up with the new issue phased in.

Fig 8

Order form from Victoria


Fig 9

£10 added to the series 1961

With the first decimal series issued in early 1966 a $20.00 forgery came onto the market within weeks of issue. This forgery has not been recorded and I would like to do so here. This was produced by the owner of a local printing company. To the philatelist this would be instantly recognized, but to the untrained eye it’s an excellent forgery. When used on tax sheets with cancels in ink, rubber stamps & pen initials all over it etc, it would be impossible to detect, so I can only assume the said printer (who eventually served a prison sentence for this fraud) was for a better word ‘dobbed’ in.


Fig 10

$20 perforated between die proof shown here front & back

I have found five constant varieties with this forgery. Firstly all stamps are line perf 11, secondly all are printed on thick unwatermarked gummed paper, thirdly the lower left leg of ‘A’ in TAX on all the tax instalment stamps has the two shading lines missing, fourthly the right leg has an extra black tick, and finally the tax check only has one constant flaw, the ‘O’ & ‘E’ are joined of ‘NOT TRANSFERABLE’. The graphic below shows the issued watermarked stamp with the training school “CANCELLED’ in blue.


Fig 11

Issued stamp with Forgery on the right

A second issue in 1971 saw the use of a red & green security underprint on watermarked paper, all values instalment & check have now been recorded, most appear scarce.

In late 1971 a third issue came about with the depletion of watermarked paper, and this issue is now found only on unwatermarked paper with red & green security underprint. Additions to Craig & Barefoot are as follows: c1990 $10 red/green value, $20 black/blue value, $40 blue/rose value, then after the $100 rose red/green value listing [Craig 1.637, Barefoot 58], a $200.00 light grey/red value was issued c1982 [a rare stamp].   Back to c1990 saw a $100 red/dark brown value and a $200 olive-green/dark brown value. The last two values I have described have recently been auctioned in MUH imprint blks of 4, selling for under or around face value. I am also aware $30,000 in face value held by a Sydney dealer has recently been ‘cashed’ back into the tax office.

Please contact me if you can help with further additions or corrections after checking your holding of these stamps. I can be contacted at  E: Dave

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