What Is Going to Happen if I Owe Back Property Taxes?

by Anna Assad

    Local governments charge property taxes against real estate that's owned in their jurisdictions. The government uses property taxes to pay for services in your neighborhood, such as schools and emergency personnel. If you don't pay your property taxes on time, the tax collector can use various collection tools to get the money owed, and you potentially could lose your property.

    The local government will add interest to your back taxes until you pay. Interest amounts and assessment dates vary by local government. You might have penalties charged once each month, adding to your balance, or the collector may calculate interest daily. Pay off the back taxes as quickly as possible so your balance doesn't balloon because of the interest.

    The tax collector may file a tax lien against you in the county land records. A property tax lien is for the amount of taxes you owe, and will state any additional penalties or the current interest rate. The lien gives the tax collector interest in your property, and will prevent you from getting a mortgage or selling the property until you satisfy it. Once the tax collector has a property tax lien against your property, it can move forward with other collection methods, such as foreclosure.

    Foreclosure policies for property taxes vary by area. Some local governments put properties with owed taxes up for auction, with the successful bidder becoming the new owner of your property. You'll receive notice from the property tax collector if your home is scheduled for an auction. Other local governments sell tax liens as certificates to private investors. A third party who buys your tax lien can foreclose on it using the foreclosure procedure found in the local laws. A third possibility is the local government taking ownership of your home and selling it later to recoup owed taxes.

    Some property tax collectors accept partial payments, but you still will owe interest. If you're facing foreclosure because of property tax liens, contact the tax collector. Your local government may offer tax repayment plans to homeowners, and if you follow the plan, you stop your property from going up for auction. Filing bankruptcy will temporarily stop the collector's actions because of the creditor stay you'll receive, but you'll still have to pay the taxes. You can include past-due taxes on a Chapter 13 bankruptcy repayment plan.

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    About the Author

    Anna Assad began writing professionally in 1999 and has published several legal articles for various websites. She has an extensive real estate and criminal legal background. She also tutored in English for nearly eight years, attended Buffalo State College for paralegal studies and accounting, and minored in English literature, receiving a Bachelor of Arts.

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