Attorney Jason Dunn explains the steps necessary before a propery is placed on the auction block.

The time of year real estate taxes are due in the City of Emporia is rapidly approaching. Last week City Treasurer Billy Harris gave a brief presentation of the tax collection process to the Emporia City Council.

If taxes remain unpaid, the wheels of the collection process begin turning. If the tax debt continues to linger, attorney, Jason Dunn takes the reigns a process that could lead to a property getting sold at an auction.

City real estate taxes are due Dec. 5. If the tax check is not postmarked by Dec. 5, a 10% penalty or a minimum of $10, whichever is greater, is tacked on to the tax bill. Another $20 administration fee is added to cover the costs associated through the close of the year in which the person incurred the tax liability.

Following the Dec. 5 due date, a delinquent reminder notice is sent, giving the citizen owing taxes a 30-day grace period.

“After that 30 days, the code says the treasurer shall commence collecting taxes,” Harris said. “Not may, but shall. Tax liens are begun after the 30-day grace period. Once all means to collect are exhausted, we will turn any delinquents over to the collection attorney, which are at the minimum two-years delinquent status unless they fall under the one-year rule according to the code.”

Two years after the due date, the Virginia Code allows for lawsuits allowing the sale of a property. Once Dunn gets involved, those owing taxes still have a chance to keep their property by paying the appropriate fees.

“We work out payment plans with folks generally,” Dunn said. “People have a right to ask for payment plans for up to 36 months. It’s often not advantageous to them because the penalty and interest continue to accrue.”

If the plan is not followed, Dunn sends a 15-day letter allowing another opportunity. If the tax-ower still doesn’t comply, the plan voids and the chance to apply for another payment plan is out the window for three years.

Dunn moves forward with litigation, and the landowner must pay the balance in full or the property moves to the auction phase. Elected officials and delinquent taxpayers are not allowed to bid at the auction.

Harris said the city’s track record is solid, with a collection rate above 99%, but it is not quite 100%. Dunn said some on a plan to pay the taxes owed fail.

“I’ve had people in the office three times,” he said. “We tend to have some repeat offenders over and over again. I don’t know why they don’t get the lesson, but that’s how it happens.”