Online Resources and Exhibits

A Scarce Example of the War Exchange Tax on Periodical Publications

Christopher D. Ryan

Mailing label with U.S. postage stamp and three Canadian revenue stamps

Illustrated above is a March 1942 mailing label from a wrapper or envelope that once enclosed a copy of the American periodical House & Garden. Affixed to the label is a four-cent American postage stamp paying the second-class rate to Canada of one cent per four ounces or fraction thereof. However, what causes this item to be of particular interest is its franking of Canadian revenue stamps. These stamps comprise three different denominations from three different issues and, together with the postage stamp, produce a scarce and attractive display piece.

From June 25th, 1940, through October 12th, 1945, most newspapers and magazines imported into Canada from the United States of America were subject to the same 10% excise tax, the War Exchange Tax, that was applied to nearly all importations from non-British countries. The Statute required that this tax be paid at Customs by the importer or his agent. Beginning in late July of 1940, Canadian revenue stamps were permitted as a means of pre-paying this tax for magazines and other periodicals sent into Canada by mail. For this purpose, one-quarter and one-half-cent excise tax stamps along with one, two, five and ten-cent customs duty stamps were sold by the Revenue Department to American and other foreign publishers. The amount of tax payable in stamps on each copy of a mailed periodical was to be 10% of the average subscription price per issue. The value of the stamps affixed was to be rounded to the nearest quarter-cent with a minimum of one-quarter cent per copy of a taxable periodical.

The one and three-quarters of a cent excise tax on the copy of House & Garden is paid by three different denominations of revenue stamps: one-cent, one-half-cent and one-quarter-cent. This would seem to be an unnecessarily cumbersome franking for what is a relatively minimal amount of tax. But given the denominations available to publishers, this is the fewest number of stamps that could have been used in this instance. However, the presence of multiple revenue stamps is a common feature of such covers. The primary significance of this particular item is the issues of stamps used. Three separate series of Canadian revenue stamps are represented in the franking: Second Issue customs duty, Three Leaf excise tax and George V excise tax. To the best knowledge of this writer, covers showing use of the quarter-cent George V excise tax stamp for the 10% War Exchange Tax are scarce. The presence of this stamp on a cover in combination with both customs duty and Three Leaf excise tax stamps makes that cover a highly prized example of the tax.

Copyright © 2003 Christopher D. Ryan
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