A tapu was the equivalent of a title deed for farmland, in a feudal system where farmers were proprietors rather than outright owners; this would be recorded in a tapu tahrir, a survey of land ownership and land grants which the Ottoman government used to update land-tax records, and which are now valuable to historians. Not all land was subject to the tapu system; iltizam tax-farming was more commonly applied to non-tapu land.2 A prominent 16th-century legal theorist argued that tapu resmi was contrary to shari'ah law, and was effectively a bribe; however, tapu resmi continued to be used across the Ottoman empire.3
Tapu resmi was a divani tax on these land titles, payable to the timar holder.4 Because land inherited land was subject to a change of title, tapu resmi could also be seen as an inheritance tax;5 but the tapu resmi fee was payable on other transfers too, including when farmland fell vacant because a tenant farmer died or left.6 After paying tapu resmi, a farmer would still have to pay resm-i çift (or an equivalent tax) each year.
Land which was newly brought under cultivation, such as ifrazat, would be exempt from tapu resmi until the next tahrir (survey).
In 1716, a kanunname (tax code) for the vilayet of Morea set a sliding scale of tapuu resmi fees, from 20 akçes for low-quality land to 60 akçe for high-quality land; this was categorised as a bad-i hava tax, along with adet-i deştbani.7
The tapu system was partially reformed during the tanzimat; including increased gender equality, so that women could work, or rent out, farmland;8 responsibility for collecting the tapu resmi passed to dedicated treasury officers rather than feudal lords, and documents were standardised in the 1840s.
- Jennings, Ronald (January 1978). "Sakaltutan Four Centuries Ago". International Journal of Middle East Studies 9 (1): 89–98. JSTOR 16262.
- Darling, Linda (1996). Revenue-raising and legitimacy: tax collection and finance administration in the Ottoman Empire, 1560-1660. Brill. p. 126. ISBN 978-90-04-10289-7.
- Governing property, making the modern state: law, administration and production in Ottoman Syria. I.B.Tauris. 2007. pp. 16–18. ISBN 978-1-84511-291-2.
- Revue internationale d'histoire militaire, Issues 66-68. 1987. p. 31.
- Kiel, Machiel (1985). Art and society of Bulgaria in the Turkish period: a sketch of the economic, juridical, and artistic preconditions of Bulgarian post-Byzantine art and its place in the development of the art of the Christian Balkans, 1360/70-1700 : a new interpretation. Van Gorcum. p. 60. ISBN 978-90-232-2061-9.
- Mladenović, Miloš (1969). Eastern Europe: historical essays presented to Professor Milos Mladenovic on his sixty-fifth birthday by his students. New Review Books.
- "A Historical and Economic Geography of Ottoman Greece". Hesperia Supplements 34: 53. 2005. JSTOR 4150513.
- Governing property, making the modern state: law, administration and production in Ottoman Syria. I.B.Tauris. 2007. pp. 48,183. ISBN 978-1-84511-291-2.