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(poshliny), money charged for the performance of certain functions by appropriate state agencies. The Russian term covers a wide variety of fees and charges, as well as customs duties.
The amounts of duties are stipulated by the laws of a given country. The most common types are registration fees, stamp duties, postal charges, judicial fees, and inheritance taxes. Customs duties are collected for goods transported across the state border. In the Middle Ages, the fees collected by the state, cities, and feudal lords for the use of roads and bridges, the conduct of judicial proceedings, and the performance of other functions were also called duties.
In modern capitalist countries, duties, like taxes, are a mandatory part of public law. But unlike taxes, they are not collected from all citizens but only from those who enter certain economic and legal relationships with one another or with state agencies. Stamp duties, for example, are levied upon official registration of sales contracts or of documents related to the inheritance of real property. Some duties are connected with certain services rendered by state institutions; examples are the recording of documents on the transfer of ownership and the protection of rights. In capitalist countries the duty rates ordinarily exceed the cost of the services rendered. The difference becomes a tax burden on the citizens, primarily the poorer ones. For example, when large properties are transferred, the duties are a negligible percentage of their value, but for the same transactions with less valuable property, the rates rise significantly.
In socialist countries, duties are payments for definite actions or services rendered by agencies of the state arbitration tribunals and by the courts, the notariat, the register office for documents of civil status (ZAGS), and the militia at the request of and in the interests of enterprises, state institutions, organizations, and individual citizens. Before the tax reform of 1930, the USSR had different types of duties for court actions, the issuance of passports to travel abroad, and hunting licenses, as well as duties on inheritances and for notarial services. In 1930 all duties became part of the uniform state duty system, which was replaced in 1942 by the state duty system. State duty is collected for statements of claim submitted to courts and state arbitration tribunals, for notarization, for registrations of marriages and divorces, and for changes of name. It is also collected for registration of passports and issuance of documents for travel to and from the USSR, for permits for home and artisan enterprises, for hunting licenses, and for other dutiable documents and actions.
The collection of duties has some importance for the national economy. For example, the collection of duties in arbitration cases is aimed at strengthening contractual discipline and, above all, stimulating enterprises, organizations, and state institutions to fulfill their obligations and strictly observe the rules for settling disputes before they reach arbitration tribunals. The levying of duties is also intended to discourage unfounded claims. In the USSR, in conformity with the decrees of the Council of Ministers of the USSR of Aug. 7, 1970, and Oct. 20, 1971, the duty in arbitration cases has been increased, and the party that proves to be in the wrong must pay it. The goal of these decrees is to increase the financial liability of enterprises, organizations, and state institutions so as to create a greater incentive for the informal settlement of economic disputes.
State duties in the USSR are classified according to the method of levying charges as simple or proportional. Simple duties are set in fixed amounts, stated in rubles and kopeks, while proportional duties are set at a percentage of the amount named in a claim. Simple duties in court cases, for example, range from 10 kopeks for divorce cases to 50 kopeks for suits involving claims of 20-50 rubles. Proportional duties range from 1 percent in kolkhoz disputes to 6 percent in suits involving 500 rubles or more. Certain exemptions from payment of duties are granted in the USSR. Production workers and clerical and professional employees are exempt from paying duties in complaints concerning violations of labor law. Kolkhoz members do not have to pay duty in suits concerning their wages. Citizens are exempt in claims involving copyright and rights associated with discoveries, inventions, and efficiency proposals. Citizens are also exempt in suits over alimony, assistance payments, and pensions. Depending on the financial condition of the parties, the court may reduce or dispense with the duty. Financial agencies establish further exemptions and reductions in relation to duties. Revenues from state duties are used in local budgets.
L. I. TUL’CHINSKH