This year's list of delinquent property tax bills in McCracken County may look staggering in print - filling more than five pages in Monday's Paducah Sun - but the number of property owners who fail to pay on time is actually decreasing, according to the McCracken County Attorney's Office.
The delinquent bills, now subject to sale on Aug. 13, represent less than 2 percent of the total property tax bills in the county.
As property owners realize what will happen if their bills are sold to third parties, the number of unpaid bills drops significantly, County Attorney Mike Murphy said.
Once a third-party vendor buys the bills, Murphy said, "he (the property owner) understands what it costs him financially. People wise up and do not allow that to happen to themselves a second or third time."
The overdue bills - officially known as certificates of delinquency - accrue simple interest at a rate of 1 percent per month once purchased by a third party. The certificates are also subject to administrative fees and pre-litigation attorneys' fees. If they're not paid after a year of delinquency, the certificates may be subject to collection processes including foreclosure, according to the Kentucky Department of Revenue's Potential Third Party Purchasers' Manual.
"These are investments by companies that come in and buy them. It's the homeowners that get the short end of the stick," Murphy said.
Third-party buyers can be businesses or individuals. They register with the Department of Revenue and the county clerk's office to buy the overdue tax bills by filling out a form and paying a $250 registration fee. After they acquire the certificate of delinquency from the county clerk, the third party must send notice of the purchase to the delinquent taxpayer within 50 days, according to the purchasers' manual.
Much of the personal property on the delinquent list falls in the category of trailers and mobile homes that the listed owner hasn't possessed for a long time. The owner may be deceased or may have sold the property without executing the title, Murphy added.
Tax bills are generally mailed out by Oct. 1 or Nov. 1 in each county and are payable to the sheriff's office. They become delinquent on Jan. 1, and are transferred to the county clerk's office by April 15 of each year. Additional penalties, fees and interest will apply after the transfer.
The county attorney must send a notice within 30 days of the bills being received by the county clerk and, if necessary, the office mails another notice within 60 days of the bills' transfer. The certificates become eligible to be sold to third party purchasers 90 days after the county clerk's office receives them. After the bills become delinquent, various penalties - 5 percent, then 10 percent and a sheriff's add-on fee - must be paid.
Delinquent tax bills will be sold starting at 9 a.m. Aug. 13 at the office of McCracken County Clerk Jeff Jerrell at the McCracken County courthouse. The listing of available properties may be inspected at mccrackenrecords.com. More information is available at the clerk's office, 270-444-4701.
Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641, or follow @LaurelFBlack on Twitter.
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