| A CHURCH in Galicia could be embargoed by its local council if it fails to pay off its 4,000-euro debt in property tax.
Mayor of Amoeiro (Ourense), Rafael Villarino, says the Diocese has until September to settle its council tax bill.
If it does not, a hold will be placed over its bank accounts or, if it does not have any, over its assets.
Impuesto sobre Bienes Inmuebles (IBI) or fixed asset tax only applies to land and property belonging to the Church which is not used for worship, meaning the actual church building is exempt.
But the mayor of this north-western village of 2,300 inhabitants believes the Church should be treated in the same way as any other property owner when it comes to contributing to public funds via taxes.
"I don't understand why we should do anyone favours: it's like saying, 'we'll charge one resident but not another'," says Villarino.
"It has nothing to do with faith, politics or any kind of vendetta - it's simply a case of treating all landowners and property owners in the same way and is completely legal.
"What would in fact be illegal is the Church failing to pay its debts."
The deadline for paying council tax was July 20 for all property owners in the village, but the Church did not settle their bill.
This means they have already had a five-per-cent late-payment fee applied, bringing the total to 4,286 euros.
If the entity does not hand over the cash soon, staged interest will be applied at 10 per cent, then 15 and 20 per cent, as is the case with all residents who own land, houses, flats or business premises.
Once the deadline for paying IBI with a 20-per-cent late-payment penalty has passed, the Church's assets will be seized by the town hall.
In 2009, the general town plan was updated and a land value revision carried out, meaning that some plots considered to be farmland were reclassified as 'urban', meaning they were suitable to be built upon and therefore attracted much higher rates.
The Diocese of Ourense has filed legal action against the council, and this is now in the hands of the court.
In the village of Amoeiro, the Diocese owns eight rectories attached to churches and chapels, and various plots of farmland and 'urban' land.
Photograph: Bird's-eye view of Amoeiro (google maps)