County discusses how to collect mobile home back taxes

Published 12:03 am Saturday, November 17, 2012

NATCHEZ — Adams County officials are discussing the possibility of collecting long-owed taxes on mobile homes through repossession and auction of those properties.

Adams County Tax Collector Peter Burns said he doesn’t know how many mobile homes owe back taxes, but he does know it’s a lot. Collections on taxes owed for mobile homes are some of the hardest with which to collect, he said.

“As a problem, it has been ongoing for years, since before I got here,” Burns said.

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“We send out statements and some come back to us, some don’t; some people pay them, and some don’t.”

The way those taxes can be collected is through the auction and sale of the mobile home, a process which Burns said many other counties use.

Supervisor Mike Lazarus recently spoke out in favor of using auctions to collect taxes on trailers.

“There are taxes we know about people not paying that we need them to pay,” Lazarus said. “We need to get all the dollars we can so we can blacktop roads and do all these things that we are supposed to be doing.”

Burns said it’s a matter of fairness to collect taxes owed on mobile homes.

“A good many of these (that owe taxes) are for older, smaller mobile homes that only owe a small amount, but small amounts add up,” he said. “It is unfair to taxpayers who pay their taxes on real estate and on their mobile homes for some not to pay it.”

But not every owner of a mobile home will owe taxes on the structure. A mobile home that is parked on property owned by the taxpayer is considered to be part of the real estate, and is included in homestead exemption claims.

But mobile homes that aren’t on land owned by the homeowner are subject to taxation similar to annual car tag taxes.

“If someone has a mobile home that is that is on land that belongs to someone else, then we place them on the transient roll — the mobile home roll — and that is registered in my office,” Burns said.

One big problem with the transient rolls is that it’s difficult to keep track of those who move old mobile homes off of a lot, but Lazarus said the county’s new E911 system will note where every structure in the county is, and will better help officials know if mobile homes have been moved in without contacting the tax office.

Burns also said mobile home owners will sometimes upgrade to a newer, larger model but not notify the tax office.

The valuation given a mobile home for tax purposes is based on its make, year and model.

“If the owner doesn’t come up to the office and take it off of the (mobile home) roll, it is still on the roll, and that valuation is on the roll when the board of supervisors and the school board set their millage rate,” Burns said.

“By law, I can’t just take something off the tax roll — that is somewhat like purging the voter rolls. I can’t remove it just because someone hasn’t paid it for so many years; I have no authority under the law to erase or forgive those fees or penalties, even if the mobile home wasn’t there for a particular year.”

While it’s too late to remove a mobile home from the rolls for this year’s taxes, Burns said it would still be possible for next year.

Unlike the auction of land for tax purposes, the owners of mobile home sold at tax auction don’t have two years to redeem the taxes owed, Burns said.

“The new owner can say right then, ‘I just bought this trailer, now vacate it,’” he said.