Property owners who have forgotten or failed to pay 2018 property taxes may have been in for a surprise when the La Plata County Treasurer's Office published a list of delinquent taxpayers last week in The Durango Herald.
The 708 property owners listed in the Herald owed a collective total of $522,292.83, said Treasurer Allison Aichele. Since publication, the number of delinquent taxpayers has been brought down to 698, and they owe a collective $509,443, she said.
The list of delinquent property taxes amounts to about 0.7 percent of all property taxes in the county, Aichele said.
The list of delinquent taxpayers appeared again Wednesday in print editions of the Herald and will appear one more time Oct. 17, as required by state law, she said.
Publication alerts taxpayers they may have forgotten to pay their property taxes, and it also informs anyone who wishes to bid on delinquent taxes which properties are delinquent and the amount of taxes owed on the property, she said.
"The main thing about this is communication," she said.
By Nov. 1, when a tax lien sale will be held over the internet, Aichele said she expects half of all delinquent property tax owners will have come forward and paid their overdue tax bills.
At the tax lien sale, investors can bid on delinquent taxes, and winning bids will go to the county to cover the delinquent taxes. The investor will get 12 percent a year interest for loaning money to the delinquent taxpayer to cover his or her tax bill.
When the delinquent taxpayer eventually pays, he or she will pay the delinquent tax bill plus all fees and interest to the bidder who paid the delinquent tax bill.
Fees assessed on delinquent property taxpayers will cover costs for publishing the list of delinquencies and for administrative costs, Aichele said.
Aichele said investors are almost always interested in collecting the 12 percent interest per year on delinquent tax bills, and they are rarely interested in taking possession of a property.
Under Colorado law, after three years of unpaid property taxes, investors can apply for a treasurer's deed to acquire the property, and the process includes numerous opportunities for the delinquent taxpayer to pay his or her tax bill. Aichele said it is rare for delinquencies to reach the stage of issuance of a treasurer's deed.
Aichele said she has worked with the property taxpayer who has the largest delinquency in the county to correct the problem, and she declined to name the taxpayer.
"It's a very personal thing, and I do not want to shame a taxpayer," she said.