One of my friends in college purportedly had racked up dozens of parking tickets courtesy of the campus police. He graduated, so either he took care of them before he left, or he never had to worry about them in the first place.
A woman in Pennsylvania, however, lost her home over an amount less than most parking tickets. Her home, which sold at auction for about $116,000 and which was reportedly valued at $280,000, was the result of a tax sale for $6.30 in unpaid interest.
That’s not a typo: She lost her house over six dollars and thirty cents.
No amount is too small
Rightfully or otherwise, the actions of public sector employees sometimes get plastered all over the news when those actions seem to be completely divorced from common sense. Although “if it bleeds, it leads” is the first rule of selling news, “bonehead makes the running head” could be a close second.
But, bonehead or not, this woman’s house is no longer hers because of an amount that’s … disproportionately small?
According to the letter of the law, though, no amount of unpaid taxes or interest above “zero” is disproportionately small. Section 306, paragraph (a) discusses the process for getting on the naughty list of delinquent homeowners, which involves having “the whole or any part of [levied taxes] which were due and payable in the calendar year immediately preceding and which remain unpaid”. Owe one cent in back taxes, and you get on the naughty list.
Choose your battles very wisely
I’ve had some wonderful interactions with local government workers: people who take pride in their job, and go out of their way to serve the county’s residents. We recently had a utility issue on the back of our property, and the service authority was exceptionally considerate in helping us fix it, and did a professional repair that will last decades.
I’ve also at times had downright miserable interactions. The kinds of employees that will mess with you if you cross them, because they can. I’d guess that we’ve all had these kinds of interactions at one point or another.
Let’s face it: We could certainly deal with fewer tax collectors. And the people who know this the best are tax collectors. (How many rolled eyes have they gotten when people ask what they do for a living?)
But, even if you don’t do anything to tick these guys off, they probably have little choice but to report even the smallest amount delinquent. That’s the law, and someone in their position won’t get fired for following the law.
So, don’t test the tax guys by not paying your bills. Even $6.30. It’s not a good bargain.