A Massachusetts funeral director has won a round in his latest legal battle to eliminate burial fees imposed by the state's cities and towns.
What the municipalities call fees, contends Paul F. Silva, are really taxes in disguise.
The Massachusetts Appeals Court agrees, ruling that the burial permit fees charged in the three towns named in Silva's suit are "improper taxes."
"A municipality should not be able to justify an otherwise invalid tax merely by providing an accounting of expenses," said the Court.
Silva, a funeral
director at Silva-Faria Funeral Homes in Fall River and Somerset,
had already won a similar case in 2003.
In that case, a court found that Fall River's "burial permit charge is better characterized as a tax than a fee because the payer of the fee derives no benefit that is not shared by the general public and it does not appear in the record that the funds are used to defray the cost of enforcing relevant regulations."
Silva and his brother Martin, also a plaintiff in the cases, felt that earlier ruling left some "wiggle room," so they filed the latest legal action.
Although the fees are nominal, the Silvas say they are acting on principle. "Why should the families facing a death have to pay an illegal tax?" asked Martin Silva.
The cities in this latest case -- New Bedford, Attleboro and Taunton -- plan to appeal. You can read more on the lawsuits and reactions to the ruling in this Boston Globe story.