Media Release: Proposed changes akin to new “Death Tax”

Sunday October 14, 2018

Proposed changes to the Burial and Cremation Act by the Tasmanian Government will effectively amount to a new $20,000 “death tax” on the residents of mainly rural and regional Tasmania, the Anglican Church in Tasmania said today.

“The proposed package of amendments will significantly increase the cost of burial plots from between $500-$1000 (current fees) to somewhere between $15,000-$20,000”, Anglican Bishop of Tasmania, The Right Revd Dr Richard Condie said.

“Ironically, should the Amendment Bill proceed in its current form, there will be an unintended consequence that most Tasmanians will find it unaffordable to be buried with their loved ones or in their local cemetery, due to the necessary costs of managing a cemetery under the proposed legislation.”

The shift of responsibility for the maintenance of a burial plot from the family to the cemetery manager, will require a sufficient fee be charged to maintain the cemetery.

“Our sums indicate that this will cost approximately $140 per plot per year for 125 years, or $17,500. This will effectively function like a de facto “death tax” on the residents of rural and regional Tasmania”, Bishop Condie said.

Bishop Condie said the increase in the interval to 100 years is the largest single contributor to the increase in costs from the proposed amendments.

Under the proposed amendments, the cemetery manager would also have to maintain or repair any broken or damaged cemetery monuments. It is going to become virtually impossible with the passage of time for the cemetery manager to recover these costs from the person who erected the monument.

“In contrast, in every other Australian jurisdiction, the obligation to maintain a monument in a cemetery is placed on the person who erected the monument”, said Bishop Condie.

“The only way to manage this liability for the anticipated life of the cemetery would be to charge those funds up front and keep the monies in trust. This adds significantly to the cost of burial plots and monuments, as enough money would need to be charged to cover anticipated property and monument maintenance costs for 125+ years into the future, including ancillary costs such as inflation and account keeping expenses for trust accounts.”

Bishop Condie said that it appeared these extra costs were an unintended effect of the Government’s attempt to protect Tasmanians’ rights to access local cemeteries and to be buried with their family members.

Bishop Condie said that the Church is now seeking to engage with the Government, Legislative Council members and the broader community to find a way forward. The Church wants to find a way forward that enables Tasmanians access to their cemeteries without the exorbitant costs of a new “death tax.”

Sunday 14th October 2018