The Austrian Newspaper Tax

The display whose sheets are presented here contains examples of signets and of adhesives on newspapers, and of loose adhesives illustrating cancellations and varieties. Special usages and situations are illustrated. The subtly different arrangements for Lombardy-Venetia are shown. [Ignore the roman numbers at bottom left of some sheets!] A 52-page article "The Austrian Newspaper Tax" is provided with considerably more information.

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The Austrian government was perennially short of money, and between 1 July 1789 & 31 Dec 1899 they instituted various systems of levying a tax on newspapers and magazines.

Initially, payment of the tax was shown by a "signet" imprinted by hand or as part of the printing process. The 1789-1791 version is extremely rare; between 1792 and 1803 the tax was in abeyance.

In 1803 the tax was reimposed, and from then till 1854 the signet's design was changed annually (this is 1813, 1 Kr value, used at Graz). The tax on foreign newspapers was usually twice that on inland newspapers; however, newspapers from certain countries ordered by advance subscription through the Post Office were taxed at the inland rate (which at times eg 1851-1857 was zero). Although this was a revenue tax, much of the detail was handled by the Post Office.

adhesive tax stamp
From 1 March 1853, adhesives were introduced as an alternative way of paying the tax. There were 4 issues: "arms in frame" designs in 1853, 1858/9, and 1877, and a "medallion" design in 1890. These adhesives are found cancelled by a wide variety of Post-, Tax- and Customs-office cancels; but were often applied to the newspaper sheet before printing so as to be "cancelled" by the print (and in this example by a tax office canceller as well). A 25 Kr perforated adhesive was introduced in 1890, to facilitate paying the tax on a weekly journal bound into a half-yearly volume.

The signets were withdrawn in 1854, but when on 1 Jan 1858 the inland tax was reintroduced, a new design of signet appeared, having a coat-of-arms and the serial number of the stamping die in a single circle; this design was not changed from year to year. From 1881, a change in the rules meant that a newspaper printed in multiple sections, or a bundle of separate newspapers posted in one wrapper, had the tax levied on each item instead of once per package. 3- and 4-fold signetting, and multiple use of adhesives, are found.

In 1885 a new design of signet appeared, double-circle, with arms, inscription, and the stamping die serial number.

The Newspaper Tax was finally abolished on 1 Jan 1900.

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©Andy Taylor. Last updated 22 April 2023