Sheriff Lawrence Hodge said Whitley County could have a 100 percent collection rate on the 2006 property tax bills if a Texas company follows through on plans to buy the delinquent tax bills from his office later this year.Hodge said he has already been contacted by a company in Texas that is interested in purchasing every 2006 delinquent tax bill in Whitley County.
Hodge said he’s not sure if it’s the same company that purchased more than $200,000 in past delinquent tax bills earlier this month from the Whitley County Clerk’s Office.
Tax Ease Lien Investments 1 LLC, which is based in Dallas, Texas, purchased 369 delinquent tax bills totaling $264,739.37 recently. Under state law, a company or individual can purchase tax bills and charge 12 percent interest on each bill that it purchased in addition to collecting “reasonable attorney fees.”
If the amounts aren’t repaid with the interest in one year, then a company or individual that owns the bill can file a lawsuit and have the property sold at a Master Commissioner’s Auction on the courthouse steps in order to collect the money.
Vicki Paul, bookkeeper at the sheriff’s office, said the interest doesn’t seem to be limited to just one company either.
“These mortgage companies are starting to call wanting to know when we are going to release a delinquent list, because they want to buy some of these bills the day of our sale,” she said.
Paul said she would advise any delinquent taxpayers to get into the office and pay their tax bills if they don’t want the bills purchased by someone else.
Paul estimated Friday that about 82 percent of people had already paid their 2006 property taxes, which is about average for this time of year.
The tax bills currently carry a 5 percent penalty on top of the face amount, but that penalty will jump to 21 percent starting Thursday, Feb. 1, Paul said.
In addition, there will be an additional $5 sheriff’s fee added onto the bills starting Thursday, which is designed to reimburse the department for sending out second notices.
Based on previous years’ sales, the sheriff’s department will offer the unpaid 2006 property tax bills for sale probably some time in either July or August.
State law requires the sheriff to offer the bills for sale annually for one day before closing out his collections on those bills and transferring them to the county clerk’s office, where another 20 percent late fee is added on to each bill, and a lien placed upon the property.
In July 2005, 27 delinquent 2004 property tax bills were purchased generating $25,630 in additional property tax collections for the county. At the time this was a record for the sheriff’s department.
Figures for the sale of 2005 property tax bills last year were not available at press time.
As of Jan. 1, there was about $2.9 million in back property taxes including interest that was owed in Whitley County on tax bills from 1999 through 2005, but this figure doesn’t reflect the delinquent tax bills purchased since that time.
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