Property Tax Forfeiture, or, One More Reason to Shrink a Government

Over at Reason, Eric Boehm reports on the continuing practice of certain county governments foreclosing on individuals who underpay their property taxes, sell off the foreclosed properties to cover the tax debt (which sometimes amounts to only a few dollars), and then keep tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars from the sales to pad their budgets (hyperlinks removed):

After a property is auctioned, the county keeps the proceeds and recycles the revenue through the same DTRF [“delinquent tax revolving fund”] used to buy the debt from municipalities in the first place.

If the county ends up with a positive balance in its DTRF, the excess funds can be channeled into the county budget.

That’s how Wayne County has funneled more than $382 million in delinquent tax surpluses into its general fund budget since 2012, according to an analysis by Bridge magazine, a Michigan-based nonprofit publication.

In Oakland County… the process has been lucrative too. According to the county’s most recent comprehensive annual financial report, its DTRF had $196.8 million in net assets. 

File this under “Disgusting Abuses of Government Power.”