Below you will find information regarding tax liens and the levy and tax sale process. Before proceeding, please note the following:
- At no time can any employee of the Tax Commissioner's office provide legal advice. If your property is involved in a tax lien, levy or tax sale and you have questions about processes or about your legal rights, contact an attorney.
- If you are interested in purchasing a property at tax sale, we strongly encourage you to seek the advice of an attorney first.
- The Tax Commissioner's office will in no way be responsible for any misconceptions of the law or of procedures held by anyone, nor for any legal missteps taken by anyone in the tax sale process other than actions taken by the Tax Commissioner's office.
When an account becomes delinquent, the Tax Commissioner may issue a tax lien against the property. A tax lien, also known as a Fi.Fa., from the Latin term Fieri Facias, may also be referred to as a tax execution. A tax lien is a claim or encumbrance placed on a property that authorizes the Tax Commissioner or the Sheriff to take whatever action is necessary and allowed by law to obtain overdue taxes. It is also the first step in taking the property to tax sale.
For real property, the Tax Commissioner must issue a 30-day notice to the property owner before filing the lien. Liens on personal property may be filed at any time after the account becomes delinquent. Liens remain filed until taxes are paid in full, and may affect personal credit records, real property closing procedures and other legal processes. A Fi.Fa. filing fee is also added to the delinquent account.
To satisfy a lien, payment may be made to the Tax Commissioner using cash, check, credit card, cashier's check or money order. Credit cards are accepted only at www.GwinnettTaxCommissioner.com, where convenience fees apply. The Tax Commissioner accepts partial payments but does not offer formal payment plans. Making partial payments on delinquent property does not necessarily prevent the property from progressing to levy and tax sale.
If payment is not made after a Fi.Fa. is issued, the Tax Commissioner will proceed to foreclose upon and sell the property to obtain the taxes due.
Once a tax lien has been filed, the Tax Commissioner may levy on the property. A levy of a tax lien is the act of setting aside a portion or a whole of a delinquent taxpayer’s property to satisfy the lien. In other words, a levy is a "seizure" of property on which taxes are owed.
In the case of real property, "seizure" may be made by posting a sign on the property to that effect. This does not affect the ownership of the property, nor does it affect the right of the property owner to reside on the property.
When levied upon, personal property is actually seized in the literal sense. The Tax Commissioner may take inventory of and store personal property until taxes are paid or until the property is sold at tax sale.
In all cases, notice is sent when a property has been levied upon. At this stage, additional levy costs and fees are added to the delinquent account, and only certified funds are accepted as payment. Certified funds include cash, cashier’s check or money order. Checks, credit cards and bank cards are not accepted. No partial payments will be accepted once a property has been levied upon.
Tax sales may be held on the first Tuesday of any month, though the Tax Commissioner generally will hold sales only during a few selected months throughout the year rather than each month. Whenever the Tax Commissioner’s Office has a tax sale scheduled, the date, time and location of the sale can be found on the Announcements page located on this website, in addition to the legal advertisement detailed below.
Once a property has been selected to go to tax sale, additional costs are added to the delinquent account for title research, advertising and other necessary actions. The property owner still has the option at this point to pay all applicable taxes, costs and fees to prevent the property from going to sale. Only certified funds for the total amount due will be accepted; partial payments will not be accepted.
The Tax Commissioner will advertise the property to be sold in the Gwinnett Daily Post for four consecutive weeks prior to the date of sale. Advertisements will also include the date and time of the sale. All sales will take place in front of the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center at 75 Langley Drive in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Property owners whose property is scheduled for sale will receive written notification prior to the sale as will those who may hold mortgages or liens on the property.
Those interested in participating in the tax sale must register with the Tax Commissioner’s office prior to the start of the tax sale. Tax sales are conducted as auctions, and properties are sold to the highest and best bidder. The highest and best bidder is not only the bidder who bids the highest amount for purchase of the property but is also the bidder who can actually pay that amount that day. The opening bid will be equal to the amount of taxes due plus costs.
The purchaser of property at tax sale must make payment with certified funds (i.e., cash, cashier’s check or certified check issued or certified by a financial institution which is insured with the FDIC or FSLIC). Purchasers will be issued a receipt upon payment, and the Tax Commissioner will issue a tax deed in the name of the purchaser and will have the deed properly recorded. Purchasers will be responsible for paying property taxes as they become due.
Purchasers of property at tax sale do not automatically "own" the property, and property owners do not immediately get evicted from the property. Purchasers must by law allow the property owner one year after the date of sale to redeem the property. In addition to the property owner, anyone who has a legal interest in the property, such as a mortgage company or anyone who holds a lien on the property may also redeem the property. To redeem a property, the owner or interested party must pay the purchaser the amount the purchaser paid at tax sale, plus 20% of that amount. In addition to this amount, the purchaser may also add to the redemption price the dollar amount of any subsequent property taxes the purchaser paid on the property after the tax sale took place.
One year from the date of the tax sale the purchaser may foreclose on the right of redemption and forever bar anyone from redeeming the property from that time on. The purchaser must issue written notice of this action. At that point, the purchaser may take steps to become the deeded owner of the property. The purchaser will automatically take title to the property four years after the date the tax deed was recorded if the property is not redeemed, even if the purchaser does not formally foreclose on the right of redemption. This process is also known as the “ripening” of the tax deed.