For the Daviess County Clerk’s Office, there has been a steady decline in the number of delinquent tax bills.

According to the county clerk’s records, there were 755 unpaid 2018 real estate bills turned over for collection. The year before that there were 866. As far as unpaid tangible tax bills, there were 51 in 2018 and 62 in 2017.

But in 2010, there were 1,375 unpaid real estate bills and 94 unpaid tangible tax bills — high numbers attributed to the Great Recession.

Richard House, chief deputy for the clerk’s office, said fewer unpaid tax bills are usually an indication of a good or an improving economy.

“This has been our lowest year in a long time,” House said. “… When the economy is doing well, people are paying their taxes.”

However, fewer tax bills don’t always equate to a lower overall amount of taxes owed.

Despite having more than 100 fewer real estate delinquent tax bills in 2018 than 2017, the county was still owed $618,316 in 2018 compared to $501,524 from the year prior.

House said 2018 had some larger unpaid real estate tax bills, which included Towne Square Mall for $94,000, which caused the overall total to be greater than what was owed in 2017.

“They’ve since settled and paid that (mall) bill,” House said.

County 2018 tax bills for both real estate and tangible properties were mailed out in November with a due date of Dec. 10. After Feb. 10, penalty and interest were added with April 25 as the last day to pay the Daviess County Sheriff’s Department. And on May 1, all delinquent bills were turned over to the clerk’s office. Additional fees along with penalties and interest were then added.

Of the 755 unpaid real estate bills that were turned over to the clerk’s office, 450 remain.

And on Aug. 21, real estate tax bills will be sold to a third party that could purchase any of the outstanding bills.

House said 20 prospective buyers were approved for this year’s sale and a lottery, chosen randomly by a computer, will determine who receives first choice down to who gets the 20th pick.

“Last year, we sold around 100 bills, and it may be less than that this time,” he said. “A lot of those bills that are left are usually mobile homes or properties people don’t want to buy.”

If a third party purchases a tax bill, 25% of the total owed had to be put down on Monday by the buyer. The remaining balance has to be paid the day of the sale.

However, the buyer of the bill can charge 1% interest per month or 12% per year plus legal fees, which would have to be paid before a lien could be released.

For example, an unpaid tax bill of $13,000 that was purchased could earn up to $1,560 for the year in interest for the third party buyer.

House said companies that buy unpaid tax bills must register with the state before they can take part in a tax sale.

“When we went into the recession, a lot of these companies formed,” House said. “… But now the state tries to regulate that because they don’t want someone coming in and owning like 10 companies and buying up all the tax bills. (The state) wants to spread it around a little bit.”

Any unpaid tax bills that are under litigation aren’t part of the sale.

And for the 51 unpaid tangible tax bills, they are not sold to a third party and remain with the clerk’s office, accruing fees and 1% interest a month.

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

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