The Brazilian city of Petropolis is known for its 19th century buildings and its Imperial Museum. The museum includes the summer home of Brazil's last ruler, Dom Pedro II.
But many people who live in Petropolis are upset about having to pay a special property tax linked to the country’s former rulers.
The tax is known as laudemio. It takes 2.5 percent of the value of real estate deals. The money from the tax goes directly to the descendants of Dom Pedro II, more than one hundred years after he was ousted.
The property tax is an example of social injustice to many of the 300,000 people living in the city.
Brazil is one of the world's most unequal places for property distribution. Almost half of the land is owned by one percent of the population. Experts say laws that were written before Brazil’s independence from Portugal worsen the problem.
The tax was established in Brazil by the rulers of Portugal to ensure that land was passed from European settlers to their descendants. In colonial times, Brazil's land was the property of Portugal.
Brazil became a republic in 1889. But the special tax was never cancelled. Many criticize the tax because it continues to earn money for only a few privileged families.
Marco Antonio de Melo Breves is an official with Brazil's federal tax department. He says he does not know how much money is paid each year under the royal property tax or how much it costs the average homeowner.
Breves says payments are generally made through private lawyers who make documents official. He adds that the government does not have information on how many royal descendants are receiving money from people paying the property tax.
Government officials say unclear property ownership and complex land registration policies are problems in Brazil. The Ministry of Cities says half the population cannot prove full legal ownership of their homes.
Ana Paula Bueno is a lawyer with the Land Governance Group at the State University of Campinas. She says removing the special property tax would require many changes to current laws.
Isabela Verleun works at the Imperial Museum of Petropolis. She says that when Brazil created a new constitution in 1988, some people wanted to end the tax.
Their efforts, however, were unsuccessful.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Words in this Story
real estate – n. property consisting of buildings and land
descendant – n. someone who is related to a person or group of people who lived in the past
distribution – n. the way that something is divided or spread out