County after delinquent property taxes
While most people anticipate the rituals of October – the World Series, the first half of football season – Eagle County Treasurer Karen Scheaffer prepares for a far different one.
Each autumn, Scheaffer gathers up a list of people and businesses that haven’t paid their yearly property taxes and lets everyone know it – by publishing the list in local newspapers. It’s not that she has a mean streak, the routine is part of her job description – it has to be done by law.
As published in the Eagle Valley Enterprise, this year there were 255 properties for which property taxes were owed.
Those properties represent $1.25 million in unpaid taxes, but that’s just a tiny portion of the $122 million in taxes Scheaffer and her office will collect and disperse to the 60 or so taxing entities in Eagle County. The county receives approximately 20 percent of its annual revenue from property tax.
If you’re one of those listed, you have until Nov. 3 to pay them before a tax sale is held, during which your outstanding taxes can, in the worst case, result in the sale of your property. But that’s a process than can take as long as three years to occur.
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“So far, this year is falling into line with other years,” said Scheaffer. “We typically collect 99.9 percent.”
She said there are lots of reasons given for not paying taxes, but the most common seems to be the lack of cash.
“Some people think it’s a game,” she said. “Others have given us a street address and haven’t received their tax notices.”
Scheaffer and her staff have begun notifying people who owe property taxes with phone calls and letters.
The publication of tax notices isn’t the first step in the process, but it’s the start of when things will become serious if you don’t act. Real property tax notices are sent out in January and taxpayers have a choice of paying it in one lump sum on April 30 or making two payments, one in February and the final, June 15.
The publication is made three times prior to the delinquent tax sale. For the 100 or so savvy investors who typically appear at the county’s tax sale being held Nov. 5, it’s an opportunity to make up to 11 percent by loaning money to the property owner.
“They’re paying the taxes in lieu of the property owner,” Scheaffer said. “That allows me collect taxes so all the tax entities have the money they need to operate.”
It also allows taxpayers the opportunity to defer paying the property taxes for up to 3 1/2 years, Scheaffer said.
“This is a lien on the property,” she said. “It can’t be bought or sold without that lien being cleared.”
Investing in unpaid taxes isn’t a simple venture. In fact, it’s the topic of a Nov. 4 seminar put on by the Treasurer’s Office.
“There are so many new investors and to talk to them individually would take too much time,” Scheaffer said. “I wanted to offer them the facts about the tax sale so they knew what they were doing.”
Cliff Thompson can be reached at 970-949-0555 x450 or firstname.lastname@example.org