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Unpaid property taxes soar to $42 million


Non-payment of property tax bills in Manatee County has zoomed to an all-time high of 12,662 property owners.

Here's how it works
Should you not pay your property taxes by the April 1 deadline, you are charged a 3 percent penalty to your bill.
On May 1, if you do not pay, you are charged an added fee to pay for advertising the list of delinquents. If you still have not paid your property taxes by the end of May, your property will be taxed an additional 10 percent.
On June 1, an online auction is held to sell tax certificates on delinquent properties. The buyers of the certificates pay the taxes on the property.
The owner then redeems the certificate at any time before April 1, 2011, by paying the buyer for paying the taxes plus interest. 

"It's definitely a record delinquency," says Ray Williams, director of delinquent collections for the office of Manatee County Tax Collector. "But we expect a surge of payments before the end of May."

In May, the names of the delinquent property owners will be published three times in the newspaper. It is expected that almost all overdue property taxes will be paid by the end of May.

On June 1, a sale of unpaid properties will be conducted in a online tax certificate sales auction. Buyers pay the tax owed to the county in exchange for a lien on the property, with the county recouping late payments and giving added incentive to the property owner to pay their late liability.

In November 2008, the office of Manatee County Tax Collector Ken Burton Jr. sent out 165,476 real estate tax bills, with a collectable amount of $539,477,202. On April 1 of this year, 12,662 of those parcels went delinquent, with a collectable amount of $42,293,458.

This works out to 7.65 percent of the annual 2008 tax bills going delinquent. However, 92.35 percent of property owners paid their real estate tax before April 1. This compares to 7.31 percent of the tax bills that went delinquent for the 2007 tax year, or 92.69 percent paying on time.

"We will end up collecting at least 99 percent of the delinquent taxes," Burton says.

Who are these people who buy up tax certificates?

"With the downturn in the economy, investors can make at a minimum 5 percent and a maximum of 18 percent return on their investment," he says. "We attract top investors because of the high value of property in our county. In some years, we have been offered by some large financial groups to buy the entire delinquent list. But we don't expect that this year. All outstanding tax debts, will however be collected."

Burton is especially proud of Williams, the director of delinquent collections, who is responsible for collecting the unpaid property taxes.

"Ray's the go-to guy in the entire state of Florida," Burton says. "When other counties have a problem, they call up Ray for advice. He's the authority."


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