What do I do if I’m facing bankruptcy and can’t afford to pay my property taxes?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Dec 15, 2019

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Unfortunately, personal hardship, such as living on a fixed income or inability to pay your property taxes, as in your case, is not taken into account during bankrptcy. Property taxes are not based on what you earn, what you paid for your property (except in California), how much you spend each year, or your inability to pay. What your property is worth is the criteria for assigning property taxes.

If the assessment amount for your property is too high, then you can appeal the assessment. However, paying to have a property assessment done by a professional assessor can be very expensive and is not guaranteed to result in a favorable decision by the county assessor’s office.

While the consequences are different for every state, the penalties will typically begin two to three months after the due date of the taxes. Typical initial penalties involve an accrual of interest for the amount owed. If the taxes are still not paid six months after their due date, percentage fines are also usually applied. For example, Washington charges non-paying residents a 3% fee for non-payment after 6 months. If you still cannot pay, interest will continue accruing until the state finally forecloses on your property and sells your home to pay your tax debt.

If you are on a limited income, the best thing to do is pay what you can towards your property taxes on a weekly basis. Paying $50 a week may not seem as difficult as paying $200 a month, but both will accomplish the same goal. If you still cannot pay your taxes and the state is about to foreclose your property, consult with a real estate attorney for other options. Sometimes banks are willing to add the property taxes onto your mortgage, depending on the type of bankruptcy you filed. 

If you have additional questions about paying your property taxes, it’s in your best interest to consult a tax attorney.

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