Taxes are one of the few remnants of barbarism that Americans have to deal with every single day. Simply put, taxes are theft at the barrel of a government gun.
We don’t have to forage for food any longer, nor do we have to fight rival tribes for land, but paying overly burdensome taxes to an Orwellian government is something we’ll likely deal with forever.
It’s bad enough forking over hard-earned cash for the government to study the “sex-life of the screwworm,” but it’s even worse when the government can seize a senior citizen’s home over an unpaid $8.41 tax bill.
What you’re about to read will horrify you, not because it’s unfair, but because it’s 100 percent legal.
Uri Rafaeli is an 83-year-old man from Michigan who used to live in a small home located in ”the projects.”
A retired engineer, Rafaeli purchased the 1,500 square foot home to live out the rest of his days in peace.
Little did he know that the state of Michigan uses a series of aggressive and hidden property-tax laws to keep houses from turning into dilapidated hovels.
So, when he miscalculated the interest on his property tax and underpaid his bill by $8.41, the county seized his home, sold it, and kept the profit ($24,500 worth), leaving Rafaeli with nothing.
As sad as this is, what happened to Mr. Rafaeli isn’t an uncommon practice nor an isolated incident.
Christina Martin of the Pacific Legal Foundation now represents Rafaeli and other homeowners and says this happens all the time.
“Michigan is currently stealing from people across the state,” Martin said. “Counties have been authorized to take not just what they are owed, but to take people’s life savings.”
How bad is it?
According to documents filed in their brief, Michigan has seized more than 100,000 properties, resold them, and kept the equity.
Michigan can get away with this because of a 1999 property tax statute, Act 123, that gave all 83 of Michigan’s county treasurers the legal power to act as “primary agents” in the foreclosure and subsequent sale of properties with unpaid taxes.
Counties could expeditiously foreclose on a house and auction it off and many times the owners wouldn’t even know until weeks after the home’s title had been given to the new owner.
The act’s passage meant that no lien, title contest, or other obstacles would stand in the way of the county gathering the proceeds of the auction.
Fortunately, this abhorrent practice may end soon.
Eric Boehm, writing for Reason, explains how Rafaeli’s lawsuit against the state could help rectify a long list of wrongs.
“If Rafaeli is victorious before the Michigan Supreme Court, the next step would be to enter into negotiations with Oakland County to determine a fair market value for his lost property, and he would be entitled to ‘just compensation.; And so would lots of other Michiganders. ‘If the Michigan Supreme Court in the Rafaeli case…rules in favor of the property owners, counties will be required to make an appropriate refund,’ says Ellison [a private attorney suing the state].”
One can only hope that Rafaeli is compensated and this terrible practice is ended soon!