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Tax Auction Possible, Finance Commissioner Says

Aug. 16, 2004 – Almost 10 years have passed since the Finance Department last auctioned off real property owned by individuals who were delinquent in their tax payments. But now, Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull says, such an auction might soon be in the works.
"We're working towards a sale," Turnbull said on Friday. But she could not say how soon one might take place. It all depends on whether individuals who are delinquent pay their taxes, she said.
From January through June of this yar, $43,304,607 in property taxes were collected, Turnbull said. She said she could not provide figures on how much money is owed or how many properties are delinquent, because owners appear at the Finance offices daily to make payments.
When an owner becomes delinquent in paying taxes, the government places a lien on the property. Notices are sent out to the media, and property owners have 30 days from publication date to pay the taxes, or the property becomes subject to being sold at auction.
The listings of owners and their properties for which taxes are past due are posted on the Source Local Government page. Look for headlines reading "Notice to Delinquent Real Property Owners."
For Garland Choate and other real-estate investors looking to purchase properties this way, the wait might be long. Choate, a Florida resident seeking to buy property in the territory, wanted to purchase a home at tax auction but was unable to do so.
Choate said that after seeing one of the Finance notices, he called the department inquiring about the tax-auction process. "They told me it was so seldom they sold any of these properties that they only have to have a sale about once every four or five years," he said. "I find this a little hard to believe."
But once notices are published, Turnbull said, the delinquent owners usually show up to make tax payments so their properties won't be sold.
On Friday, Gov. Charles Turnbull vetoed the Homeownership Act of 2004, a measure sponsored by Sen. Emmett Hansen II. The legislation called for allowing delinquent taxpayers to settle their debt by deeding to the government land worth at least what they owe in taxes. It also provided for 20 years of tax credits to anyone donating at least three acres of contiguous land to the government for affordable housing.
Turnbull said he "could not in good conscience" approve the bill because it would "further exacerbate the territory's financial situation by siphoning off more monies from the General Fund." (See "Homeownership Act Not Affordable, Governor Says".)

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