|Legal Opinion: |
Text of Document: You have inquired about whether there have been any MTAS publications on the collection of delinquent property taxes published since 1979. I have not found any; though we are in the process of moving offices right now and I might find an updated version once all the boxes have been unpacked. Until then, I’m sending you the following general information on collection of back taxes and delinquent tax notices and the who is responsible for their dissemination:
Delinquent Tax Notices / Responsibility for Public Notice
The question is often raised as to who is responsible for giving public notice in instances where the city turns over the delinquent taxes to the city attorney for collection?
Pursuant to the following statutes governing the collection/enforcement of back taxes, I believe the answer is that the county trustee is most often responsible. The one exception, as set forth in T.C.A. 67-5-2005 (d), is applicable for municipalities having the power under their own charters to collect their own taxes. That subsection also allows a municipal corporation that has no charter provision regarding the collection of delinquent taxes to provide for such by ordinance. In such a case, the municipality would clearly be responsible for giving the proper public notice. However under that same statute, the county trustee retains the authority to collect both current and delinquent municipal property taxes, notwithstanding the rights of such a municipality to collect its own taxes. T.C.A. 67-5-2005(d). The specific answer would depend on whether or not the county trustee asserted jurisdiction over the collection of municipal taxes as to who was responsible for giving public notice.
T.C.A. Section 67-5-2005 states as follows:
(a) When a municipal corporation uses the county trustee or the delinquent tax attorney to collect delinquent real property taxes of the corporation, the proper officers of the corporation shall certify the delinquent taxes to the county trustee(s) by May 1 of the year after the taxes became due . (emphasis added)
(b) The property so certified to the county trustee on which the municipal taxes
are delinquent shall be advertised and sold...at the same time in the same manner as a part of the county trustee's other sales of property for county and state taxes.
With respect to delinquent taxes on personal property, T.C.A. Section 67-5-2003 allows the county trustee to use the assistance of the "delinquent tax attorney" selected pursuant to T.C.A. Section 67-5-2404.
T.C.A. Section 67-5-2404 sets forth in detail the duties and compensation of the "attorney chosen by the trustee with the approval of the county executive" to prepare and file suits in chancery or circuit court for the collection of delinquent land taxes."
Therefore, it would appear that for both delinquent land taxes and delinquent real property taxes, typically the county trustee selects an attorney to prosecute the collection suits on behalf of the municipality, the county and the state.
Publication of the notice - T.C.A. Section 67-5-2401 provides that:
(a) "As a preliminary step toward enforcing the lien on uncollected land taxes charged to the trustee on the tax books, the trustee shall cause to be inserted in one (1) or more newspapers of the county once a week for two (2) consecutive weeks in the month of January as notice as follows: [specific language of the notice is in the statute]. " (emphasis added)
b) The cost of advertising shall be paid by the county, and if no newspaper is published in the county, notice shall be posted on the courthouse door. (emphasis added)
Furthermore, under T.C.A. Section 67-5-2402, entitled "Notice to property owner of delinquency," the trustee "shall likewise prepare from the rolls held by the trustee's office a list of taxpayers and identification of property for which property taxes are delinquent as of June 1 of the current calendar year," and include certain specified language on the current tax bills sent to owners that they owe back taxes and that their property may be sold if the debt is not paid.
Finally, T.C.A. Section 67-5-2502 addresses prior notice of the impending sale of real property after a court has decreed that it be sold. The property in question must be advertised in a sale notice with a legal description of the property; the advertisement "may be by publication in a newspaper or by printed handbill." Subsection (c) of this statute provides that the delinquent tax attorney shall make a reasonable search of the public records and "give notice to persons identified by the search as having an interest in the property to be sold. The court shall set a reasonable fee for this service." While it is not stated therein, presumably such a fee would be paid out of the proceeds from the sale of the property in question.
I hope this is helpful to your. Please let me know if MTAS can be of any further assistance.