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Tax Deed


A tax deed is a legal document that grants ownership of a property to a government body or public entity when the original owner fails to pay their property taxes. These outstanding taxes are usually sold at public auction as tax lien certificates, and if the property owner fails to redeem them, the government claims the property through the tax deed. The government can then sell the property to recuperate the unpaid taxes, offering investors an opportunity to buy real estate at a reduced price.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Tax Deed” is: tæks did

Key Takeaways


  1. Property Acquisition due to Unpaid Taxes: Tax deeds are issued when property owners fail to pay their property taxes. When the owner defaults on their taxes, the local government puts a lien on the property and sells it at a public auction.
  2. Investment Opportunities: Tax deed investing can be a profitable venture for investors, as properties sold through tax deed auctions are often sold for a fraction of their market value. This can lead to potential profits for investors who are willing to do their due diligence and research the property beforehand.
  3. Risks Associated: Tax deed investments carry risks, such as the possibility of additional liens on the property, difficulty in evicting occupants, or hidden structural issues. It’s important for investors to carefully research each property and consult with professionals to minimize these risks before bidding in a tax deed auction.


The term Tax Deed is important in the realm of business and finance because it represents a legally binding document that signifies the transfer of ownership and title of a delinquent taxpayer’s property to a new owner. This typically occurs when a property owner fails to pay their owed property taxes, resulting in the local government (such as a county or municipality) initiating a tax lien on the property to recover the overdue amount. To settle the debt, the government may auction off the property through a tax deed sale, allowing investors or buyers to purchase the property, often at a discounted rate. Consequently, tax deed sales present potential investment opportunities while also enabling governments to efficiently collect delinquent taxes, thereby maintaining the provision of public services and boosting local economies.


The purpose of a tax deed is to transfer property ownership to the buyer, typically a government entity or an individual investor, when the original property owner fails to pay property taxes. This legal process serves as a critical mechanism in reinforcing the government’s obligation to collect property taxes, which are vital sources of revenue for funding public services such as education, transportation, and infrastructure projects. Auctioning off tax deed properties not only recoups the unpaid taxes for the local government but also incentivizes property owners to keep up with their tax liabilities, thereby ensuring a smoother administration of tax revenues.

Tax deeds are used in conjunction with tax lien sales, which allow investors to purchase the outstanding tax debt on a property and become secured creditors. If the property owner fails to redeem the lien by paying off the debt and any interest or penalties accrued within a specified period, the tax lien holder may initiate a tax deed auction. This process provides investors the opportunity to acquire real estate properties at a potentially lower cost. Thus, tax deeds serve a dual-purpose of ensuring that the government collects necessary tax revenue and offering investment opportunities to buyers, ultimately maintaining a system of efficiency and accountability in the world of real estate taxation.


A tax deed is a legal document that grants ownership of a property to a government body or an individual due to the non-payment of property taxes by the previous owner. Here are three real-world examples:

Example 1: Orange County, Florida, Tax Deed SaleIn Orange County, Florida, properties with delinquent taxes are auctioned off to the highest bidder through a tax deed sale. The county holds the auction to recover the unpaid property taxes. The winning bidder is granted a tax deed, which transfers the ownership of the property. This allows the county to collect unpaid taxes and enables the new owner to acquire the property at a lower cost than purchasing it through traditional methods.

Example 2: Wayne County, Michigan, Tax Deed ForeclosureIn Wayne County, Michigan, the county Treasurer’s Office conducts an annual tax foreclosure auction for properties with delinquent taxes. After a three-year notification process and failure to pay the outstanding taxes, the property is foreclosed, and a tax deed is issued to the highest bidder at the auction. The new owner is then responsible for paying any remaining taxes and maintaining the property.

Example 3: Cook County, Illinois, Annual Tax SaleIn Cook County, Illinois, the county holds an annual tax sale to collect delinquent property taxes. Investors can bid on the tax liens of properties with unpaid taxes. If the property owner fails to redeem their taxes within a specified period, the investor can obtain a tax deed for the property. This grants the investor ownership of the property, allowing them to potentially profit from its resale or rental income.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Tax Deed?

A Tax Deed is a legal document that gives the holder ownership of a property due to the non-payment of property taxes. This document is issued by a government agency after a property has gone through a tax lien auction or sale.

How does a property end up being sold through a Tax Deed?

When a property owner fails to pay property taxes, the government places a tax lien on the property. If the owner does not pay their taxes within a specified period, the property is auctioned off, and the highest bidder acquires ownership through a Tax Deed.

How can I purchase a property through a Tax Deed auction?

To purchase a property at a Tax Deed auction, first, research upcoming auctions in the county where you are interested in acquiring a property. Then, register to participate in the auction. At the auction, place a bid on the desired property, and if you are the highest bidder, pay the required amount to obtain the Tax Deed.

How does a Tax Deed auction work?

Tax Deed auctions can vary by jurisdiction. Generally, potential buyers gather either at a physical location or online platform, where they bid on properties with outstanding tax debts. Bidding often starts at the amount of tax debt, and the property is sold to the highest bidder.

Are there any risks associated with purchasing a property through a Tax Deed?

Yes, there are some risks involved in acquiring properties through Tax Deed sales. Some of the common risks include liens and encumbrances remaining on the property, possible title issues, inability to inspect the property before purchase, and potential repair or renovation costs.

Can property owners redeem their property after a Tax Deed sale?

In some jurisdictions, property owners may have a redemption period during which they can reclaim their property by paying the outstanding taxes owed, penalties, interest, and any additional fees. The duration of this redemption period varies by jurisdiction. Once the redemption period expires, the Tax Deed holder takes full ownership of the property.

What happens to a mortgage on a property sold through a Tax Deed?

In many cases, a Tax Deed sale will extinguish existing mortgages on a property. However, this may vary depending on local laws. It is important to research the specific rules and regulations governing Tax Deed sales in the jurisdiction where the property is located.

Are there any restrictions on reselling a property obtained through a Tax Deed?

Once you obtain a property through a Tax Deed, you are generally free to sell it. However, you may need to follow local laws and regulations regarding property transactions. Consider consulting with a real estate attorney or professional to address any potential issues before reselling a Tax Deed property.

Related Finance Terms

  • Property Tax Lien
  • Tax Deed Auction
  • Tax Foreclosure
  • Redemption Period
  • Tax Deed Investor

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