In many ways revenue or fiscal stamps are close relatives of the regular postage stamps. The latter pays for the carriage of a letter or a parcel, and the former is used to denote the payment of some sort of government tax or fee.
Many countries have issued stamps which could be used both for postal and fiscal purposes. Thus, many British colonial stamps are inscribed Postage & Revenue. All states need funds for their budgets. Most rely heavily on direct taxation of incomes but this is generally not sufficient to pay for everything. Thus, there are excise taxes on a variety of products, value added taxes, fees on legal documents and a plethora of other taxes and fees that citizens need to pay.
The people of India have always been heavily taxed. This was also the case in the many Feudatory States which existed until India’s independence in 1947. India was very much a feudal society with a history going back to the Moghul emperors in Delhi. At that time, India was a patchwork of smaller and larger states whose rulers pledged allegiance to the Moghul Emperor.
This system was taken over by the British with Queen Victoria becoming the Empress of India. In fact, the British colonial administration favoured this feudal system as it prevented the people of India from uniting in an effort to achieve independence.
There were some 550 feudatory states in India, many of which were very efficiently run with the help of British political agents. Numerous rulers amassed large fortunes and the common people were supposed to provide the funds for the rulers’ lavish lifestyles. Several sources suggest that the common people had to pay as much as 50 per cent of their incomes to the state in one way or another. Some of the larger states comprised a number of smaller semi-independent estates which paid an annual tribute to the state ruler. Mewar State is one example. This state in Rajasthan had a population of 1.4 million people in 1941. There were numerous estates or thikanas that were independently run. Many used Mewar court fee and revenue stamps overprinted with the name of the estate in Hindi.
Life in the countryside was far from easy and the farmers had to work very hard to eke out an existence. Their ability to pay heavy taxes was certainly very limited. However, they sometimes needed assistance from various courts of law and everything related to the judicial system was taxed. Thus, most states issued large quantities of court fee stamps.