Thursday, June 12, 2008
On May 21st, the Brazilian Supreme Court ruled that cemeteries that are extensions of religious entities, operate on a non-profit basis and are exclusively devoted to religious and funerary services are exempt from property tax (IPTU).
This decision was reached unanimously when judging an appeal lodged by the St. George's Church and British Cemetery Society of Salvador, Bahia, and the Anglican Church, contesting the decision of the Bahian Court, which did not recognise that the area where the cemetery is located is exempt from property tax. The Bahian treasury was threatening to auction off the historic cemetery to pay off a debt of BRL 41,831.70 (over 10,000 pounds) for the period between 1994 and 1996.
Situated in one of the finest districts of Salvador, Bahia (Ladeira da Barra), the Anglican chapel and cemetery were built 200 years ago by Britons who accompanied the Portuguese royal family when they arrived in Brazil in 1808.
According to the defence, the future King João VI of Portugal signed the free navigation treaty with the British goverment in the chapel (demolished in the 1970s), thereby ensuring that Anglican British subjects resident in Salvador had the right to worship and bury their dead.
The cemetery has been listed as a heritage site at the state level and is in the process of being listed at the federal level by the Ministry of Culture's National Institute for Historic and Artistic Heritage.
For more background information click here
The British Church and Cemetery at Salvador are owned and administered by the "SOCIEDADE DA IGREJA DE SÃO JORGE E CEMITERIO BRITANICO" (a non-profit organisation), representing the British community in Bahia.