UK Purchase Tax Codes

Two digit UK purchase  tax codes can sometimes be found  embossed on the label or in the runout of older UK-pressed records and can be helpful in pinpointing the date of pressing. The embossed letters were termed at the factory as a ‘slug’. They were adopted in record manufacture in 1940 and continued in use until 1973, when Purchase Tax was replaced by the uniform 10% VAT.

At each change in tax rates a new code was introduced, identifying the appropriate rate to be paid on that record. In the example pictured above, the KT code stamped  straddling the spindle hole indicates it was manufactured between 1963 and 1968, information that is not found  any where else on the label or cover.

Pictured on the right, code O/T found on a Fontana press of Miles Davis at the Blackhawk Vol1, indicating pressing date 1961-2, which it does actually say on the label. But labels are not definitive: follow the money. Tax is definitive.

This Columbia “Trumpeter” label in the Clef series has an R/T code, indicating year of manufacture 1955-7.

Because purchase tax went both up and down, according to what politicians thought was popular at the time, the codes kept changing in keeping with each change in rate. Some labels used stickers instead of slugs, or printed the rate on the cover or label.

There are anomalies, as always, where previously used codes were adapted and re-used. An example on the right is the use by CBS of the 1961-2 code “O/T” suffixed as O/T1. The label clearly states the recording was “first published in 1964”. That is the thing about physical manufacture – unlike today’s world of intangibles. You have a problem to solve, you make something up that meets the requirement, however inelegant. Their job was making and selling records, not collecting taxes, or fussing over collector’s forensic interests.

Purchase tax  (a regressive form of taxation loved by politicians) was levied on the wholesale price of the record. Introduced at 33 1/3%, at times it increased to 100%, or 66 1/3%, and fell as low as 25%. For the most part, records were classified as “luxury items” earning them the highest of the various rates applying at the time. (Excuse me, music, a “luxury”?) There are apparently many exceptions, like promo copies which were tax-free, and pressings for export..

The codes below apply in general to: EMI labels –  Columbia, HMV, MGM, Parlophone, etc.;Decca labels  -Coral, London, RCA, etc; Philips, Polydor. Decca 1960’s pressings had the tax code printed on the label ie no slugs.

UK Purchase Tax Codes
Date introduced:

Dec 30th 1950   AT

Apr 15th 1953    NT

Oct 27th 1955   RT

June 1st 1957   XT

Oct 1st 1958     UT

Apr 8th 1959     ET

Aug 1st 1960     WT

July 26th 1961   OT

Apr 10th 1962    ZT

Nov 26th 1962   PT

Jan 1st 1963     MT

July 1st 1963     KT

Nov 23rd 1968   JT

Apr 1st 1973 –
Purchase tax replaced by VAT

An authority on tax codes is Peter Rice, from whose site I “borrowed” some of the above information. More can be found here.

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