Indian Laws Relevant to Philately

Value Added Tax

India introduced Value Added Tax (VAT) with effect from April 1, 2005 to replace Sales Tax. VAT is applied by the State Governments and every State has passed a VAT Act on a model provided by the centre with some changes. Attached to the Act are Schedules giving rates or exemptions to various goods. If an item is neither mentioned for a specific rate nor listed as exempt, it is charged VAT at a specified rate, currently 12.5 to 14.5% under 'goods not covered in any of the other schedules'. Stamps were not specifically exempted in State Sales Tax laws but India Post got this included in VAT laws for themselves.
VAT registration is compulsory 1. For dealers having turnover exceeding Rs 5 lacs or increased limit of Rs 10 lacs in some states, 2.  Purchasing from outside state for resale.

Here is the summary of the relevant part of VAT laws of 31 States:
Following 3 States exempt VAT
Haryana on Philatalic stamps and postal stationery;
Madhya Pradesh on philatelic stamps ;
Maharashtra on Philatelic material such as Postal Stamp, Postal Envelope, Postal Stationery, Pigeonogram, Rocketgram and First Day Cover.
26 States exempt only if sold by Government;
2 States namely Bihar and West Bengal specifically mention that exemption excludes first day cover, folder even if sold by Government!
Government of India is moving towards introduction of GST (Goods & Services Tax) by April 2016 and has advised State Governments accordingly who have already started  taking steps on to ensure compliance of taxes on ecommerce.  

Relevant Extracts from the VAT Schecdules from States

It is primarily the liability of the seller, who generally recovers it from the purchaser.

The sales by way of export are generally exempt from VAT and Central Sales Tax.


The Central Sales Tax in India at 2 per cent is levied on inter-state sale of goods. Central Sales Tax is not dependent on amount of turnover and the registration of dealer becomes compulsory once an inter-state sale is made irrespective of amount.


Commodity Classification for Imports
The new 8-digit commodity classification for imports was adopted from April 1, 2002. 

4907 00 10     Indian Unused postage, revenue or similar stamps including stamp-impressed paper of current or new issue 

9704 00 10     Postage or revenue stamps, used or unused 
9704 00 20     Stamp-post marks, first-day covers, used or unused 
9704 00 0     Postal stationery (stamped paper), and the like, used or unused
9704 00 90     Philatelic accessories

The import is free for stamps other than those covered under heading '4907 00 10'. 

The import of items covered under '4907 00 10' is restricted. Specific permit or license from the Director General of Foreign Trade is required for import of items under this heading.

Custom Tariff
There is also no Custom Duty on of stamps other than those covered under heading '4907 00 10' where it is charged at the rate of 25% of the face value.

Note: The Customs laws, including item classification is drafted by international organizations and ratified by member countries, at times with some changes. That is why language is what it is now because it is not written for a country but for all countries. In Indian Import Policy and Customs Tariff Act it says at 4907 00 10: ‘Unused postage, revenue or similar stamps of current or new issue in the country in which they have, or will have, a recognized face value’. This is same language as in most countries’ customs rules and can be seen online.

It means that import of current and new issue of Indian stamps in to India where they have a recognized face value (for postal purposes i.e. can be used for postage) will attract customs duty. This provision is to take care of some eventualities such as importing back from the Philatelic agency to which India Post may have provided discount on face value or importing after India’s foreign exchange rate changed to make the import profitable. The Government and its department are not looking at philatelic value but to protect any revenue loss to it by import of stamps under face value and using it for postage.

Any other countries current or new issue do not have or will have a recognized face value in India for any purpose. Therefore are neither restricted to import nor subject to customs duty. The correct classification of these items are covered under Chapter 97 - Postage or revenue stamps, stamp-post marks, first-day covers, postal stationery (stamped paper), and the like, used or unused, other than those of heading 4907. Please note it clearly says unused stamps etc.

When a customs officer interprets the above as import of any unused stamps as requiring an import license and also subject to customs duty, please point out that it is not correct.

There are no restriction to export of stamps that are less then 100 years old.


The definition of the Antiquity under this Act includes any coin, sculpture, painting, epigraph or other work of art or craftsmanship; any article, object or thing detached from a building or cave; any article, object or thing illustrative of science, art, crafts, literature, religion, customs, morals or politics in bygone ages; any article, object or thing of historical interest; which has been in existence for not less then one hundred years.  And any manuscript, record or other document which is of scientific, historical, literary or aesthetic value and which has been in existence for not less then seventy-five years.

The registration of antiquities specified below is compulsory
Sculptures in stone, terracotta, metals, ivory, and bone, Paintings (including miniatures and tanks) in all media (paper, wood, cloth, silk, and the like)
, and Manuscripts containing Paintings, Illustrations or Illuminations (adornment with colored lettering)  

The Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India is the authority competent to issue permit under Section 3 of the Antiquities & Art Treasurers Act for the export of any antiquity and art Treasure.


Publication of maps of India in any form, even in text books of geography, needs the permission of the Surveyor General of India.

Publication of maps depicting inaccurate external boundaries and coast-line of India is tantamount to questioning the territorial integrity of India, and is a cognizable offence under Section 2 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1961.

The sheets of Maps on the scale of 1:250,000 published by the Survey of India are ?Restricted? and the Government of India Notification No. 227 Customs F.No.405/3/80-Cus.III, dated 29.13.1980 prohibits the export of these maps.

All topographical and geographical maps of the Survey of India (and maps derived from them) on the scale of one-million or larger of areas roughly 80 km wide inland along the coast and along the international borders, the whole of the state of Jammu & Kashmir and all the islands in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea are put in "Restricted" category. This means that they are not available to the general public but only to certain categories of people and institutions, particularly government departments as the procedure to obtain them is long-drawn; one has to go through the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of External Affairs and/or the Ministry of Home. The loss or even disclosure of these maps to unauthorized persons attract penal action under Section 5 of the Official Secret Act, 1923.

Indian Copyright Act 1957

The stamps are not mentioned by name however Section 28 is applicable in this case. The provisions therein state that any Government  work goes out of copyright 60 years after publication into public domain. Images of Indian stamps older than 60 years, the years 1947, 1948 & early 1949 thus are out of copyright and already in public domain. The stamps still under copyright can only be shown as per permissions/conditions laid down by India Post on their website.

Section 28. Term of copyright in Government work.- In the case of Government work, where Government is the first owner of the copyright therein, copyright shall subsist until Sixty years from the beginning of the calendar year next following the year in which the work is first published.

India Post Regulations  update 2011
Art works, essays, proofs colour trials, progressives, imprimaturs and other material generated during the course of designing and production of Indian postage stamps, postal stationery, etc., printed in India after independence and any Indian items not officially issued and/or pre-released after independence are banned from being exhibited as an entry or part of an exhibit.

Any item, which does not show the correct International Boundaries of India, and /or which offends the religious, ethnic, national integrity or environmental sentiments will not be allowed to be displayed.

Your specific queries and suggestions are welcome