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Taxation Based on Land Ownership: A Real-life Example

…[T]he tax real estate law, doesn’t give a whole lot of room for error….*

I’m a staunch opponent of the taxation of property in land, for a couple of reasons, although I agree that in the current climate of political opinion such taxation is not going away, being de rigueur at least “locally” — i.e. usually imposed by the county and city, in the U.S.

Of course, while I don’t agree that it is necessarily true that “taxation is theft,” since there are counterexamples that I can (with some creativity) dream up, I do believe that in the portion of the Vale of Tears in which we find ourselves, property tax is a bane, and would be even worse if it replaced (let alone were added to!) any other form of taxation. (There is a far better, if still imperfect, method of funding necessary government than that of taxation. I do agree we won’t be seeing it anytime soon, though, unless Burt & co. get their interstellar warp-drive up and running stat.)

So, here’s what happened to one person who was unfortunate enough to own her own home. (Considering it was paid off, she’d probably lived there long enough that it was “home” and not merely a house.) Note: One must be honest when reporting, even if it hurts one’s case. The amount in question was $ 6.30, not $ 6.

OK to sell widow’s home over $6 bill, judge rules

Posted: Apr 28, 2014 3:17 PM CDT
Updated: Apr 28, 2014 3:57 PM CDT

BEAVER, Pa. (AP) – A widow was given ample notice before her $280,000 house was sold at a tax auction three years ago over $6.30 in unpaid interest, a Pennsylvania judge has ruled.

The decision last week turned down Eileen Battisti’s request to reverse the September 2011 sale of her home outside Aliquippa in western Pennsylvania.

“I paid everything, and didn’t know about the $6.30,” Battisti said. “For the house to be sold just because of $6.30 is crazy.”

Battisti, who still lives in the house, said Monday that she plans to appeal to Commonwealth Court. That court earlier ordered an evidentiary hearing, which led to last week’s ruling.

Beaver County Common Pleas Judge Gus Kwidis wrote that the county tax claim bureau complied with notification requirements in state law before the auction. She had previously owed other taxes, but at the time of the sale she owed just $235, including other interest and fees.

“There is no doubt that (she) had actual receipt of the notification of the tax upset sale on July 7, 2011, and Aug. 16, 2011,” the judge wrote. “Moreover, on Aug. 12, 2011, a notice of sale was sent by first class mail and was not returned.”

The property sold for about $116,000, and most of that money will be paid to Battisti if further appeals are unsuccessful. An attorney for the purchaser did not return a phone message on Monday.

Joe Askar, Beaver County’s chief solicitor, said the judge got the decision right, based on the law.

“The county never wants to see anybody lose their home, but at the same time the tax sale law, the tax real estate law, doesn’t give a whole lot of room for error, either,” Askar said.

Battisti said her husband handled the paperwork for the property’s taxes before he passed away in 2004.

“It’s bad – she had some hard times, I guess her husband kind of took care of a lot of that stuff,” Askar said. “It seemed that she was having a hard time coping with the loss of her husband – that just made it set in a little more.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

*”…equal, but some are more equal than others.” Call me cynical if you must.


  1. Paul Marks says:

    The idea that income taxes are used for tyranny but land taxes are not is (as Julie points out) false – actually land taxes have often been used for tyranny.

    Either the property taxes are set absurdly high (as in modern New Jersey) or the slightest mistake in paying the tax is used as an excuse to steal the property (the old “Boss” of Jersey City in New Jersey was famous or that back in the 1930s – one of his most favoured tricks was to demand all the property tax paperwork for X number of years, or even decades, “you can not produce it! – Why you vile criminal, out you go…..”).

    Although that being said it is not true that property owners are equally badly protected in all States.

    Sadly the effort to abolish the Property Tax in North Dakota failed – but property owners are better protected there than in some places.

    No stealing a property for an unpaid six Dollar tax bill.

  2. Paul Marks says:

    By the way – local government (rather than State governments) tend to be the real swine with property taxes (and they often have a hidden agenda – to get people out).

    One reason why Constitutions such as that of Alabama, which (generally – unless a specific local government is allowed to do XYZ) ties local government hand and foot, are a good idea – and why allowing “local freedom” (such as the “freedom” that Jefferson County Alabama so abused) is a bad idea.

    Freedom is for individuals and voluntary organisations – NOT for governments.

  3. Lynne at Counting Cats says:

    The land of the free to confiscate private property on a nonsensical whim because the State says it’s okay.


  4. Julie near Chicago says:

    Lynne — I wish it were. :>(

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