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Park County has the longest delinquent tax list

Brief by Central Staff

Local politics – December 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine

Chaffee County’s property owners are fairly diligent about paying their property taxes. We know that because the annual list of delinquent property taxes, which the law requires to be published in a local newspaper, was only one page long.

Around Central Colorado, Park County had the longest list — just over 15 tabloid newspaper pages of owner names, property descriptions, and taxes owed. Next was Saguache County, with 11+ pages. Lake County had nearly 6 pages, and Custer County had 2.

While it is true that people do acquire land by paying back taxes, it usually doesn’t work that way. The assessment of property taxes constitutes a lien against the property if the owner doesn’t pay on time.

At the tax sale every fall, the county treasurer sells the lien to the highest bidder. The county (and school districts, etc.) gets its money, and the buyer can collect interest when the property owner redeems the lien. The land changes hands only if the owner does not pay taxes for several years.

Typically, the delinquent tax lists are longest in counties with the most absentee property owners, and most people buy the liens as investments that pay better interest rates than most banks or the like.