Law School News: Clifford Quoted in Commonwealth Magazine on Unconstitutionality of Tax Acts
Professor Ralph Clifford was quoted in Commonwealth Magazine on municipal foreclosures of homes with tax privileges.
UMass law professor Ralph Clifford was cited in Commonwealth Review on municipalities foreclosing homes with tax privileges without proper due process. The article follows the story of a Massachusetts man who fights to save his decades-long home from overdue tax foreclosure. The lien for an unpaid $ 3,056 property tax bill is what could end up costing the Massachusetts man his $ 254,000 home. The question is: are cities giving enough warning to defaulting taxpayers before their property is foreclosed?
Professor Clifford is no stranger to the unconstitutionality of tax lien laws – in 2018 he published an article in the University of Massachusetts Law Journal on the subject. Clifford explains in his article how cities fail to provide due process for homeowners before the municipal collector seizes a property. Many homeowners affected by tax lien laws are seniors, who may own their homes but do not pay their taxes for reasons ranging from poor health to financial hardship. Currently, bills are pending before the legislature that would amend the State Tax Lien Act to give homeowners more transparent notifications of liens and more opportunities to fight foreclosure, or at least receive a part of the sale if the house is sold. Clifford estimates that each year in the state about $ 56 million is “unconstitutionally taken away from taxpayers.”
Although Clifford clarifies that there is no problem for a municipality taking a property to collect unpaid taxes, a line is drawn when a municipality sells a house for $ 200,000 to cover a debt of $ 3,000, then keeps the change, which Clifford defines as “theft.” “We’re not talking a bit of ‘theft’,” Clifford said. “We’re talking about $ 50 million to $ 60 million every year here. And it is a rather outrageous amount of money that the government is appropriating. ”