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Tax lien sales

Last one from the Courier-Journal:  Every year, investors such as American Tax Funding provide schools, metro government and fire departments with money in lieu of property owners who fail to pay their taxes.

But in exchange, Jefferson County gives up hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars a year that go to investors, typically based out of town — money that could be used to combat the problem of vacant and abandoned properties, according to experts on running city land banks.

If the homeowner doesn’t pay the back taxes, the investor can collect interest on the debt for up to 11 years or foreclose on the property, as in Henry’s case. Like banks with mortgages, tax lien buyers gauge when the money they’re owed exceeds a property’s market value.

Housing advocates say lien buyers can charge “excessive” fees, especially legal costs once a case moves to foreclosure, making it nearly impossible for the homeowner to avoid losing the property.

“A lot of them, it’s so far gone that there’s not much we can do,” said John Young, an attorney with Legal Aid Society of Louisville, who represents homeowners fending off tax lien companies.

Tax lien sales

From the Courier-Journal article:  Last summer, tax-lien buyers paid the Jefferson County clerk’s office about $12 million. That made up for about a third of the total 14,000 tax bills that had gone unpaid the year before.The money mainly went to Jefferson County Public Schools, which gets the biggest share of local property taxes, as well as to metro government, the state and suburban cities, and fire districts. Part of the $12 million went for payouts of about 40 percent on each tax bill to the Jefferson County sheriff’s, clerk’s and county attorney’s offices.

Kentucky tax lien sales

Great article from the Courier-Journal:  Despite being on the books since the 1940s, tax liens sales are relatively new in Kentucky, said Tom Crawford of the Kentucky Department of Revenue.

In 2004, American Tax Funding, a Jupiter, Fla., company that calls itself “the nation’s leading” bulk-buyer of tax liens, hired a lobbyist and convinced the Kentucky General Assembly to let it and other tax lien buyers add attorneys’ fees to the liens, said Jim Ballinger, a Louisville attorney who represents American Tax Funding.

That made tax lien investing more attractive because legal costs no longer threatened to eat into profits.

“Before that, nobody really bothered with them. They were just sitting there and sitting there,” Ballinger said.

Christian County Attorney Mike Foster, who has been heavily involved in refining tax sale laws, added that investors saw the 12 percent interest rate on tax debt, which is written into state law, as a return that was hard to beat.

Unemployment rates down

Unemployment rates fell in 99 Kentucky counties between May 2010 and May 2011, while 16 county rates increased and five counties remained the same, according to the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training, an agency of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.

Fayette County recorded the lowest jobless rate in the Commonwealth at 7.3 percent. It was followed by Calloway and Oldham counties, 7.5 percent each; Hancock and Woodford counties, 7.6 percent each; Caldwell and Warren counties, 7.7 percent each; Union County, 7.8 percent; and Hardin and Ohio counties, 8 percent each.

Jackson County recorded the state’s highest unemployment rate — 17.4 percent. It was followed by Metcalfe County, 16.3 percent; Magoffin County, 15.9 percent; McCreary County, 14.9 percent; Clay County, 14.5 percent; Lewis County, 13.9 percent; Fulton County, 13.6 percent; and Menifee, Nelson and Rockcastle counties, 13.3 percent each.  Kentucky.gov.