The Patriot News
January 3, 2015 Central PA:
State court voids tax sale of Perry County property
Saying the law wasn’t followed to the letter, Commonwealth Court has overturned the tax sale of a Perry County property.
The tax bureau first tried to notify Tufarolo that his property was targeted for sale by sending him a notice by certified mail. That was returned as “unclaimed.” The bureau then sent a notice by regular mail, advertised the sale, and posted signs on the property about the impending auction. It also searched telephone directories, tax assessment records and the recorder of deeds office for alternate means of contacting Tufarolo.
However, as Judge Robert Simpson noted in the Commonwealth Court opinion, the bureau didn’t check the prothonotary’s office [editor’s note: County Recorder] for info regarding possible contact information for Tufarolo before the sale occurred. Such a pre-sale check is mandatory under state law, Simpson noted, even though the search that eventually was conducted turned up no contact data for Tufarolo.
Tufarolo initially appealed to county court, which upheld the validity of the sale. Tufarolo claimed he didn’t know his property was on the block until he went there to hunt in February 2014. His lawyer stated during a county court hearing that, although the mailed notice of the sale was sent to Tufarolo’s proper address, Tufarolo never opened his mail.
Simpson found that every requirement of state law must be followed before someone’s property is subjected to a tax sale, so the tax bureau’s failure to document its notification efforts and check the prothonotary’s office demand that Tufarolo’s sale be overturned.
Read the entire article: State Court Voids Tax Sale
Coach Mitch’s REFLECTIONS™
Hegel and Marx are turning over in their graves!
They ascribe to the Statist argument that each resident is subject to taxation in the manner the State deems proper.
To be clear, with regular mail delivery, there is no way for the county to prove that the USPS actually delivered the mail. That almost all the mail gets delivered almost all of the time is not proof of delivery. Even a properly signed returned receipt only shows that someone in the household received the notice, or worse, anyone who happened to answer the door, perhaps even someone attending a party at the addressee who was leaving to get more beer and left the Notice at the grocery store.
Regular Notice is a legal fiction and has the same level of assurance of delivery as an email that automatically goes to Spam. You got the email but you never saw it. Yet, the courts have ruled that Constructive Notice is reasonable, regular and proper. For example. you should have known that you were late paying your property taxes and in the normal course of things you should have expected legal action, be prepared for it – and that could constitute Notice. We ASSUME the law is wise and fair, however, this is an example of the law being an ass and making an ass out of you and me.
Planned Accidents Waiting To Happen
What if that Notice was not delivered to the recipient? How is that fair to the person losing their property? This is why personal service should be required when the state is taking (stealing) someone’s property. The current levels of notice are not at all adequate and purposefully so.
Tax Collectors Object
When I have discussed the issue of lack of notice or imperfect notice, tax collectors have all said that doing skip tracing and personal service is too costly. I have countered that all other costs of the tax collection process are added to the outstanding tax bill, why not search properly and add the additional charges? I usually get a shrug of the shoulders.
The Real Reason
These days, when a skip tracer can find almost anyone, IMHO, the real answer why no genuine search is done is that the taxing jurisdiction desires keeping the monies from the sale of the property. These monies are now being viewed as a source of government funds, e.g. a User’s Fee, and are calculated into and as part of the tax collectors upcoming budget or the general budget. After all, it costs money to have a tax auction; someone has to pay the bill.
The taxing jurisdiction views the monies from the sale of unclaimed properties or from overbids as “their” monies and any objection or hindrance with the government taking the monies is viewed as Interference in a Governmental Operation, punishable as a Class 1 Misdemeanor or even as a felony. The taxing jurisdiction takes this hard stand because, according to the government, all the legal standards of Notice have been met.
That the standards for notification are the minimum rather than the maximum is not their fault; they are following the current law, they say with their tongue firmly in their cheek. For improvement, they suggest lobbing the legislature for stricter standards of notification. Government has the power to manipulate and take advantage, so it does. Game, Set and Match!
At the least, tax collectors and tax assessors should attempt to collect contact data via all methods of notification, including current emails, social media, employment, professional associations and relatives.
In this manner, when the taxing jurisdiction desires to take a property, at least the owner has the potential of being notified that his asset is being taken. I also see no reason why the taxing jurisdiction cannot reasonably contact state and federal taxing agencies for current contact data. When the government wants to find you, they will. In addition, if the property was ever mortgaged, the bank probably has contact information.
Why not require that, when your interest is at stake, that government must to find you, for your own good. Government uses that logic; “for your own good” when it intrudes upon our freedom in the name of safety. For our own good, let government use the collected data for a benefit that genuinely serves US.
The Right Wrong
Further, let me be clear, I do not agree that a free people can remain free in a society where the government can tax the property or possessions of its residents. Even after the property is completely paid for, the owner never truly owns it, for the government always has a potential lien against the property.
There can be no freedom when the government can levy a tax on property and can increase that tax until the owner can no longer pay the tax, allowing the government to legally take the property. In this manner government can confiscate all property and justify their action by saying that government services must be paid for.
After all, “from each according to his ability – to each according to his need.” You have an ability to pay, with your property – and government has an unending need.
The Real Purpose of Government
The purpose of governments in the US is to defend a person’s right to their life, their liberty and their property, against outside incursion, including an attack from government itself. IMHO, property taxes are not constitutional and the taking of property for the non-payment of property taxes seems to be a penalty that is out of all proportion to the crime, and therefore the punishment itself is unconstitutional, as it is cruel and unusual.
At a county tax deed auction, I saw a nice property get sold for $125,000. The outstanding taxes were about $12,000. The county kept the balance. This is big money! That is why the government wants it. However, if you owed $12,000 in credit card debt, can you possibly justify a bank charging you $113,000 in interest and penalties? Isn’t that the definition of usury?
What You Can Do About It
Coach Mitch’s Tax Delinquent Property “Ridiculously Simple System…”™ shows you the way to help someone who is behind in their property taxes and help them get something before the government takes it all.
I hope to see you in the trenches –
518-439-6100 until midnight EST