Last edited 02 Oct 2018



In its most general sense, a duty is a responsibility or obligation to act or perform in a certain way. For example, employees are duty-bound to carry out the tasks and actions required as part of their job.

In terms of economics, the term ‘duty’ refers to a type of tax that is levied by a state. It is often used in the context of customs and taxes on overseas purchases. In relation to property, an estate duty (also known as inheritance tax) is levied on the estate of someone who dies or on the inheritance that someone else receives from someone who dies. This is known informally as a ‘death duty’. Stamp duty land tax (SDLT) is payable on the purchase or transfer of property or land in the UK which has a value above a certain threshold. For more information, see Stamp duty.

In construction, a large number of duties may arise, such as:

The word duty may also be used in relation to the durability or robustness of a product, such as in the phrase 'heavy duty'.

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