DETROIT (WWJ) Why are nearly 80 percent of those buying property at Wayne County foreclosure auctions not paying their taxes?

Tax collection is an ongoing issue in Detroit, which is making its way through bankruptcy court in the largest such case of its kind in history.

One of the issues: delinquent taxes cost Detroit $70 million a year in revenue, according to many analysts.

But there’s one particular kind of delinquent who really burns up Wayne County’s Chief Deputy Treasurer David Szymanski.

“The biggest villain here are these people who buy numerous property for investment purposes, they collect rent on them, don’t pay the taxes, and then let them go to foreclosure,” Szymanski said.  “We have to break that cycle.”

He said non-payment of taxes has become a kind of culture in Detroit. In fact, a Detroit News analysis a few months ago showed nearly half of Detroit’s 305,000 homeowners don’t pay taxes. The study found 77 blocks in one area had only one owner who paid taxes.

“I think that a culture has actually developed, especially in the Detroit area where people become greatly disheartened because there’s an 18 percent interest rate on delinquent taxes,” he said. “People had to make a choice between feeding their families and paying their taxes, and it’s frankly not a tough choice.”

He said people who need help catching up on back taxes should work with  federal agency Step Forward.

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