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The War Tax Stamps








One result of the European war was that Canada, in common with many other countries, had to impose special taxes. The Hon. W. T. White, Minister of Finance, outlined the various tariff changes and special taxes in the House of Commons, Ottawa, on February 11th, 1915, and a resume of the chief items in the new “budget” was published in the Weekly for Feb. 7th as follows:—



The tariff changes went into effect at the time of the announcement. The special tax on wine and champagne goes into effect at once. The other special taxes take effect at a date to be yet fixed. The stamp tax on letters means that the old 3 cent postage rate is restored, and a city letter costs 2 cents.


There is to be no income tax.


The following are some of the items of taxation:—


One cent on telegraph and cable messages.


Five cents for every five dollars on railroad and steamboat tickets.


Ten cents on sleeping car and five cents on parlor car tickets.


One to three dollars per passenger from steamboat companies carrying to ports other than in Canada, Newfoundland, the United States of America, and British West Indies.


Two cents on all bank checks, receipts and bills of exchange, express and post-office orders.


One cent on postal notes.


One cent (war stamp) on each letter and postcard.


Five cents per quart on non-sparkling wines sold in Canada, and twenty-five cents per pint on champagne and sparkling wines.


One cent on each twenty-five cents retail price of proprietary articles.



The only tax that has interest to us as philatelists is the one cent impost on all letters and postcards. This came into effect on April 15th, 1915, and special stamps were issued for the purpose. These are the regular 1c postage stamps of the King George series with the words “WAR TAX”, in two lines, in large colorless block capitals between the portrait and the value. As this stamp collected a tax on letters and postcards it will undoubtedly be considered collectible by the most advanced of the philatelic purists. A 2c value was also issued in this type and while this was primarily intended for use on money orders, checks, etc., it was also quite frequently used for postage. In fact there seems to have been no necessity for these special stamps, for so long as a letter had 3c postage on it (or 2c in the case of drop letters) the law was fully complied with.


That both the 1c and 2c values were good for postage is proved by the following letter addressed to Mr. Gladstone Perry in answer to an enquiry by him:—




Post Office Department, Canada,

Ottawa, 22nd April, 1915.


Dear Sir:—


I am directed to acknowledge the receipt of your favour of the 19th inst. on the subject of War Tax Stamps.


In so far as the Post Office Department is concerned, the War Tax Stamps have only been issued in two denominations, namely:—the one cent and two cent.


The Two Cent War Tax Stamp may be used on money orders, cheques, notes and wherever else the tax on that amount is applicable.


I would also add that ordinary postage stamps may also be used to pay the War Tax and that Post Office War Tax Stamps are available for postage purposes.



Very sincerely yours,

E. J. Lemaire, Superintendent,

Postage Stamp Branch.



It was considered, however, that a stamp which would pay both postage and tax would be a great convenience to the public and in December, 1915, a stamp of this sort was issued. The official announcement regarding these was as follows:—




Post Office Department, Canada,

Ottawa, December 30th, 1915.


Sir:—I have the honor to enclose three specimens of a stamp which this Department is issuing for postage and War Tax purposes, having a value of three cents. This is an ordinary two cent postage stamp surcharged as follows: 1 T c (one cent tax). This has been issued in response to the demand of the public for a stamp having the value of three cents so that postage and War Tax might be paid by affixing one stamp. This stamp is of permanent validity.



I have the honor to be, Sir,


Your obedient servant,

R. M. Coulter,

Deputy Postmaster-General.



The new stamps were printed from engraved plates as usual from a special die adapted from the ordinary 2 cent stamp. Upon the King's coat, immediately below the portrait but within the portrait oval, is engraved a capital “T” beneath the left branch of which is the numeral “1”, and beneath the right branch the letter “c” for cent. These presumably came into general use on January 1st, 1916.


Sometime in July or August, 1916, this special 3c stamp was reported as existing with a perforation of 12 at top and bottom and 8 at the sides. It was generally presumed these were stamps from sheets which had been originally intended for coil use and this was confirmed in a letter sent to a correspondent from the Superintendent of the Postage Stamp Branch at Ottawa, viz.:—



The explanation of this lies in the simple fact that owing to quick deliveries of this stamp being required by the Department, the manufacturers were obliged to use part of stock which had been prepared for roll postage and perforated sidewise with the wide perforation. These sheets were then perforated endwise with the regular perforation and issued.



It is said that 50,000 of these stamps were supplied to the Montreal Post-office but whether this represents the total quantity issued or not we cannot say.


As this 3c tax stamp was in the same color as the ordinary 2c label much confusion resulted and the advantage of issuing the stamp in a distinctive color was ultimately considered by the Post Office Department. Rumours that the color would be changed began to circulate early in September, 1916, and shortly afterwards the stamp made its appearance in an attractive brown color. The new stamp was apparently distributed late in August and postmasters were instructed not to issue it until all stocks of the old 3c in carmine had been sold. The circular dealing with this matter is worded as follows:—




Post Office Department, Canada,

Ottawa, 28th August, 1916.



Two-Cent Surcharged Postage and War Tax Stamp.

The Postmaster will please observe that the 2c Surcharged Postage and War Tax stamps, herewith enclosed, are printed in BROWN instead of in RED, as formerly. In future these stamps will be issued in the colour mentioned so as to overcome the difficulty experienced owing to the similarity in colour to the ordinary 2c stamp.


Before offering to the public any of the new stamps it is very desirable that the old stock he entirely sold.


R. M. Coulter,

Deputy Postmaster-General.




Reference List.


1915-16. Engraved and printed by the American Bank Note Co., Ottawa. No wmk. Perf. 12.



  • 100. 1c    green, Scott's No. 201.

  • 101. 2c+1c carmine, Scott's No. 202.



    • (a)  Perf. 12x8.



  • 102. 2c+1c brown.










Next: A Proposed Commemorative Series

Previous: The King George Stamps



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