MicroPOISE Document Protection System for Stamp Duty Administration Utilising Holograms and Datafoil.

Security Foiling Ltd

Security Foiling Limited were appointed to manufacture a document protection solution for Stamp Duty by Bull Information Systems of Dublin in 2001.

The installation along with SDAS (Stamp Duty Administration System) remains in place in three offices around the Republic of Ireland. The total system is fully supported by local engineers and additional factory support is provided by Security Foiling Limited in England.

Stamp Duty is a duty charged on written documents.  These documents are referred to as instruments in the Stamp Duty code. 

It’s a very old form of taxation – first invented in the Netherlands in 1624.  It came to England in 1694 as a means whereby William and Mary could fund the then current war against France. From England it spread out across much of the world.  Its attempted imposition in America in 1765 gave rise to protest meetings and an outcry of “no taxation without representation”.  The arrival of ships bearing consignments of stamped paper was attended by major rioting – the most well known being the Boston Tea Party.

In 1793 Ad Valorem (meaning according to value) Stamp Duty was introduced.

In 1842 Stamp Duties payable in Ireland were brought into line with those in the rest of the United Kingdom.

Much of the law and practice relating to Stamp Duty around the world today is modelled on the British Stamp Duties Management Act of 1891 and not a lot has changed since then. 

Stamp Duty Administration System

Bull Information Systems has developed a system to support the administration of Stamp Duty within a modern Revenue's portfolio of activities.  The Irish Office of the Revenue Commissioners has installed this system, known as SDAS (Stamp Duty Administration System).

In 2001, total Irish tax receipts under the heading of Stamp Duty amounted to €1.22Billion, of which 55% was associated with duties arising on the conveyances of lands, houses and other properties while a further 28% arose from transactions in Stocks and Shares.   The total number of transactions in that year was of the order of 400,000.

The main business functions comprising the Stamping operations are as follows:

  • Marking (calculation, revision and annotation of duty and penalties, if any, payable on documents).
  • Adjudication (calculation, revision and annotation of duty and penalties, if any, payable on documents). The number of documents requiring adjudication represents about 10% of total volume.
  • Remittance Processing (payment acceptance, lodgement and accounting)
  • Stamping (embossing of appropriate stamps on client’s documents)
  • Refunds (warrant preparation for the Accountant General’s Office)
  • Reporting (ad-hoc, daily, weekly etc. reporting on Stamping operation)

In designing SDAS the provision of an integrated Stamping facility was particularly challenging.  Most Stamping Offices still rely on large mechanical presses, which are used to emboss Stamps on documents. This process is illustrated below The Stamps produced by these presses are regarded as secure from tampering and fraudulent reproduction.  Any replacement approach, integrated or other wise, was required to maintain these security criteria.

Document Security System

There were other considerations as well.  As in most tax matters, penalties and interest can accompany duty.  And the latter can be mitigated to varying degrees by way of adjudication or other.  And Stamps are required to record these additional payments.  Instruments can vary in size and in thickness, in the material used (vellum).  A means of accommodating these various degrees of freedom was required.  There are many different types of Stamps and many instruments require multiple equivalent “stamps”.   Stamps (or an acceptable equivalent) must be impressed on the front page of a client’s document for legal reasons. Margins can be as small as one-quarter-inch.   Under no circumstances should the mark/stamp deface any text on the instrument.  Documents can be bound, stapled, and page-numbered in a manner that prevents ready access to some of the margins. Bindings or staples cannot be removed. 

All in all, as already mentioned, a significant challenge.

In SDAS every instrument/document is given a unique identification automatically assigned at the time of document processing.  The database holds a complete audit trail of the history of that document.  A “Master” client configuration is installed at each front office position in the Public Stamping Halls.  This client configuration, in addition to running the application software to support all of the various business functions of the office, has the periphery required to Mark and “Stamp” the instrument.  Thus, each teller position is capable of a one-stop shop operation whereby all functions, from marking to stamping can be carried out in a single pass.  Of course many customers opt for a multi-stage process which involves resuming the document processing over a number of different visits.   And some 20% of transactions arrive by post and are processed off-line under an agreed service-level/turnaround agreement.

Front Office Master Station


Instrument Processing Stages - Mark - 'Stamp'

The marking string can vary in length depending on the complexity of the transaction.  To accommodate this, and also take into account blank space restrictions in the margins of the document in question, it is not unusual to find that this string comprises a number of lines.  In such cases, the foiling and hologram placement automatically adjusts to accommodate the shape and the string and to ensure that the critical fields of information are physically secured (foiled).

The Datafoil and Hologram stamps that are placed over and beside the marking string are applied using equipment designed and manufactured in England by Security Foiling Limited.

The Master station uses two point of issue security embossing (POISE) machines known as MicroPOISE , which are fully integrated with the printer that applies the marking string, the document conveyance system and the SDAS software system. This ensures that the SDAS system can interrogate the Master station for fault conditions and meet strict document audit requirements.

The hot stamped foil features used in the system can vary to meet exact customer requirements and can include a combination of any of the following features:

Hologram – now a widely recognised device to give authenticity and validity to documents and branded items. Holograms are available in transparent, fully metalised and de-metalised versions to meet specific requirements. Bespoke holograms are recommended for each customer or application but standard security designs are available for lower security applications.


Datafoil– a registered process of Security Foiling Limited. A bespoke manufactured hot stamping die is used to apply transparent hot stamping foils over variable data. The hot stamping foil acts as a secure laminate to protect against undetectable alteration of the data. Transparent holographic stamping foil can be used with good effect with Datafoilâ.


Securigrafix – a registered process of Security Foiling Limited. A bespoke manufactured hot stamping die is used to apply metallic hot stamping foils. Securigrafixâ can be used in conjunction with or as an alternative to holograms.


Because Securigrafixâ is manufactured into the die technology this allows the customer to change the hot stamping foil to suit different document types or campaigns at very low cost. When combined with holograms, Securigrafix adds not only further security but also a more tactile feel to the surface of the document.


The SDAS system itself provides a comprehensive framework facilitating the full secure administration of a Stamp Duty system.  It supports multiple locations.  It is extensively parameterised to facilitate the implementation of significant changes (legislation, budget) with recourse to programming.   It is resilient allowing the continuity of front office operations even in circumstances where server and/or network have failed.  It provides a complete audit trail.  It has full money management facilities and an extensive MIS.

It is available in its current implementation (Advantage Ingres) as a ship and go system or in alternative implementations by re-application of the framework. In the illustrations that follow a measure of the breadth of the SDAS system may be gleaned.  These screen shots relate to the Irish implementation.

Main system menu as per Irish implementation

Note in the above screen the facility to pick up an existing document and continue processing reflecting the multi-stage as opposed to the one-stop shop approach.  Also note the facility to collect “particulars delivered” which information is used by Compliance Management, the Valuation Office and by other agencies.  This top-level menu very much reflects the specified requirements of the Irish implementation and might look considerably different in another agency’s approach.

In the image below the initial document-processing screen is set out.  This screen illustrates a number of other system features.  It’s a multi-currency system and the Irish implementation facilitates payment in Euro, in IEP, in Sterling (GBP) or a mixture of same.

The clients of the system are normally solicitors or their agents.  Facilities exist to allow those clients to present documents in groups – multiple instruments which will be covered by a single payment.

Initial Processing  Generating the Mark’ /Assessment.

Remittance Processing

Note the facilities to endorse tendered cheque and generate receipt.  Also note the on-deposit handling facilities.  The option to proceed to the next stage (i.e. Stamping) can be invoked once payment has been received.

Stamping Control

This screen illustrates the integrated nature of the application as far as stamping is concerned.  The string formatting facilitates control of the layout of the marking string with reference to position and available margin.  There is also a check ahead feature illustrated in this screen in that the application is making sure that the various components of the Master Workstation (string printing, applying foil, applying hologram, are in order before committing the document to physical marking/stamping.

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