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THE following are the various provisions of the Stamp Act, 1870" (33 & 34 Vict. c. 97), affecting cheques.
Among the duties payable by the schedule to that Act is the following:
"Bill of Exchange, payable on demand, 1d." By s. 48, "the term bill of exchange, for the purposes of this Act, includes also draft, order, cheque, and letter of credit, and any document or writing (except a bank-note) entitling or purporting to entitle any person, whether named therein or not, to payment by any other person of, or to draw upon any other person for, any sum of money therein mentioned."
As the term bill of exchange includes cheque, all those clauses of the Act which relate to bills of exchange will also apply to cheques where not repugnant to the character of those instruments, and these clauses seem to be the following :-
23. Except where express provision is made to the contrary, all duties are to be denoted by impressed stamps only.
24. (1.) An instrument, the duty upon which is required, or permitted by law, to be denoted by an adhesive stamp, is not to be deemed duly stamped with an adhesive stamp unless the person required by law to cancel such adhesive stamp cancels the same by writing on or across the stamp his name or initials, or the name or initials of his firm, together with the true date of his so writing, so that the stamp may be effectually cancelled, and rendered incapable of being used for any other instrument, or unless it is otherwise proved that the stamp appearing on the instrument was affixed thereto at the proper time.
(2.) Every person who, being required by law to cancel an adhesive stamp, wilfully neglects or refuses duly and effectually to do so in manner aforesaid, shall forfeit the sum of ten pounds.
50. The fixed duty of one penny on a bill of exchange for the payment of money on demand may be denoted by an adhesive stamp, which is to be cancelled by the person by whom the bill is signed before he delivers it out of his hands, custody, or power.
53. (1.) Where a bill of exchange or promissory note has been written on material bearing an impressed stamp of sufficient amount but of improper denomination, it may be stamped with the proper stamp on payment of the duty, and a
penalty of forty shillings if the bill or note be not then payable according to its tenor, and of ten pounds if the same be so payable.
(2.) Except as aforesaid, no bill of exchange or promissory note shall be stamped with an impressed stamp after the execution thereof.
54. (1.) Every person who issues, indorses, transfers, negotiates, presents for payment, or pays any bill of exchange or promissory note liable to duty and not being duly stamped shall forfeit the sum of ten pounds, and the person who takes or receives from any other person any such bill or note not being duly stamped either in payment or as a security, or by purchase or otherwise, shall not be entitled to recover thereon, or to make the same available for any purpose whatever.
(2.) Provided that if any bill of exchange for the payment of money on demand, liable only to the duty of one penny, is presented for payment unstamped, the person to whom it to whom it is so presented may affix thereto a proper adhesive stamp, and cancel the same, as if he had been the drawer of the bill, and may, upon so doing, pay the sum in the said bill mentioned, and charge the duty in account against the person by whom the bill was drawn, or deduct such duty from the said sum, and such bill is, so far as respects the duty, to be deemed good and valid.
(3.) But the foregoing proviso is not to relieve any person from any penalty he may have incurred in relation to such bill.
The exemptions stated in the Act are as follows:
(1.) Bill or note issued by the Governor and Company of the Bank of England or Bank of Ireland.
(2.) Draft or order drawn by any banker in the United Kingdom upon any other banker in the United Kingdom, not payable to bearer or to order, and used solely for the purpose of settling or clearing any account between such bankers.
(3.) Letter written by a banker in the United Kingdom to any other banker in the United Kingdom, directing the payment of any sum of money, the same not being payable to bearer or to order, and such letter not being sent or delivered to the person to whom payment is to be made, or to any person on his behalf.
(4.) Letter of credit granted in the United Kingdom authorizing drafts to be drawn out of the United Kingdom payable in the United Kingdom.
(5.) Draft or order drawn by the Accountant General of the Court of Chancery in England or Ireland.
(6.) Warrant or order for the payment of any annuity granted by the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt, or for the payment of any dividend or any interest on any share in the Government or Parliamentary stocks or funds.
(7.) Bill drawn by the Lords Commissioners of
the Admiralty, or by any person under their authority, under the authority of any Act of Parliament upon and payable by the Accountant General of the Navy.
(8.) Bill drawn (according to a form prescribed by Her Majesty's orders by any person duly authorized to draw the same) upon and payable out of any public account for any pay or allowance of the army or other expenditure connected therewith.
(9.) Coupon or warrant for interest attached to and issued with any security.
There are also exceptions under the Acts 6 & 7 Wm. 4, c. 32; and 18 & 19 Vict. c. 73, of the drafts or orders of Friendly Societies and Benefit Building Societies.
The following cases, prior to 1870, may be referred to for decision of questions relating to cheques, and the consequences to the parties to cheques of breaches of the then existing stamp laws:
Ex parte Bignold (1 Deac. 712); Greene v. Allday (1 Gale, 218); and Austin v. Bunyard (12 L. T., 452).