Stamp taxes were first imposed in the Philippines on January 1, 1640, and were  collected throughout the entire remaining 258 years of Spanish rule. During this period a very elaborate system of stamp taxes was developed. Nevertheless, in spite of the  numerous stamp taxes imposed and the great variety of revenue stamps and revenue stamped paper issued, stamp taxes never became a major source of revenue during the Spanish Regime.  This was due in part to the fact that agriculture and commerce stagnated during the Spanish regime and, hence the volume of the transactions subject to stamp taxes was small.  The Philippines budget for the fiscal year ending June 30, l696, estimated receipts from stamp taxes of 7l6,l00 pesos, which was only 7.8 percent of the total  estimated internal revenue receipts of 9,125,040 pesos.

The largest single source of revenue throughout almost the entire period of Spanish rule was an annual poll tax, which was called “tribute” prior to July l, 1684, and  subsequent to that date was called the “Personal Cedula Tax” because the receipt issue for the payment of the tax was certificate of identification called a “personal cedula”.  The amount of the tax was printed on the face of each personal cedula and the cedulas were serially numbered. The tax collecting officers were required to account for the face value of all blank cedulas issued to then.  This insured an honest accounting for the poll taxes, which they collected.  Thus, the “personal cedula”, like stamped paper and adhesive stamps, was an accountable property of the State.  The budget for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1896, estimated receipts from  personal cedula tax at 4,586,250 pesos, or 50.3 percent of the total estimated internal revenues of the Central Philippine Government.  Thus, including stamp taxes, a total of about 58.1 percent of the internal revenues of the Central  Government were collected by the use of accountable paper of the State.

The PAPEL SELLADO (Documentary Stamped Paper), which was in use from  January 1, 1640, until at least as late as 1903, was created for a two-fold purpose.  To  provide a new source of revenue for the State and to insure the permanence and authenticity of all “public” documents by requiring that each document must be written upon the a tamped paper which was issued for that sole purpose by the State.

The purpose for which papel Sellado was used varied somewhat during the 258 years of its use under the Spanish regime.  During this entire period, however, Papel Sellado was required for all documents which were acknowledged before a notary public, for all official documents for all judicial records, for all documents pertaining to both civil and criminal      judicial proceedings, for the registers of notaries-public, and for all appointments to positions in the service of the Government.  The stamped paper law also required all “letters of pardon and mercy” and all “honors” granted by the King or his representatives in the Spanish Colonies to be written upon Papel Sellado.  Likewise, petitions addressed to the King, or to the administrative officials of the Colonial Governments, must be written upon the Papel Sellado. Beginning in 1798, the use of Papel Sellado was extended to certain commercial documents. It was required that the first and last sheets of the statues of  brotherhoods, associations, etc, and of the principal books of merchants, must be written upon Papel Sellado.  Beginning in 1822, the stamped paper law required that receipts for  the delivery of money or goods, and all customs house permits including unloading  permits, must be written upon Papel Sellado. Beginning in 1882, it was required that the books of consulates, commercial associations and brokers, and the books of the   income-producing properties of the Church, must be written upon Papel Sellado.

A stamp tax on DOCUMENTOS DE GIRO (Documents for the Circulation of Money) was extended to the Philippines by the Royal Order of July 17, 1836.  This Royal Order prescribed that all Documentos de Giro must be written upon a special stamped paper,  which was  created for that sole purpose.  The amount of the tax was graduated in accordance with the amount of money mentioned in the document and for the collection of the tax, stamped paper of twelve different denominations was issued.

Documentos de Giro were defined as:  Bills of exchange, warrants payable to order, promissory notes and letters of credit for a fixed.

 Two special classes of a tamped paper, one for MULTAS (Fines) and the other for REINTEGROS  (Restitutions) were created in 1853, Prior to that time fines and restitutions were collected in cash.  A stamp was an accountable property of the State.  The stamp vendor could be required to produce either the stamps, which had been delivered to him, or the money, which he had obtained from their sale.  Hence, by the use of stamped paper for the collection of fines and restitutions, the State was provided with a convenient proof of the amount  collected and could thereby enforce an honest accounting for such revenues.

The use of special revenue stamps and stamped paper as a means of insuring  an honest accounting for the revenues collected by the tax collecting officers was applied to a great variety of minor taxes during the Spanish regime. The special classes of stamped papers for fines and restitutions were abolished by the Royal Order of 0ctober 28, 1878.  In their place a new class of stamped paper, PAPEL DE PAGOS AL ESTADO (Paper for  Payments to the State) was created, which remained in use until at least as late as 1900.  By the Royal Decree of May 16, 1886, the use of Papel de Pagos al Estado was extended to the collection of a great variety of minor taxes.

The first adhesive revenue stamps to be used in the Philippines were DERECHOS DE PIRMA (Fees for Signature or Signature Fees) stamps, which were created by the Royal Order of October 29, 1857.  This Royal Order provided that in the future Signature Fees should be collected by the affixture of adhesive DERECHOS DE FIRMA stamps on the documents subject to such fees.