November 6, 2019

County Seizes 83-Year-Old Man's Home over $8.41 in Unpaid Taxes

  • Flyover Country

By: Teresa Mull

In Brief:

An octogenarian from Michigan had his home seized by the county because he failed to pay a measly $8.41 in taxes.  

The Background:

Uri Rafaeli, an 83-year-old retired engineer, made a mistake on his taxes (he miscalculated the interest owed) that led him to underpay the county by $8.41. Rafaeli’s tiny and honest mistake led to a penalty, the ultimate seizure of his property, and a huge financial loss. reports:

     “Uri Rafaeli, who lost his property and all the equity associated with it, is just one of thousands of         people to be victimized by Michigan's uniquely aggressive property tax statute. The law, passed in       1999 in an attempt to accelerate the rehabilitation of abandoned properties, empowers county              treasurers to act as debt collectors. In the process, it creates a perverse incentive by allowing               treasurers' offices to retain excess revenue raised by seizing and selling properties with delinquent       taxes—even when the amount owed is miniscule, and even when the homes aren't abandoned or         blighted at all. 

    “Organizations representing property owners like Rafaeli say the practice is unconstitutional,                   inequitable, and unreasonably harsh. They call it "home equity theft"—a process that's a close               relative to the civil asset forfeiture laws that have been used by police departments to similarly             deprive innocent Americans of their property without due process. They are now asking the state          Supreme Court to restrict the practice.”

Why It Matters:

I mean…

Notable Quotes:

"Counties have been authorized to take not just what they are owed, but to take people's life savings."

  • Christina Martin, Pacific Legal Foundation attorney, to  

Teresa Mull is editor of Contact her at [email protected].


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