In a move aimed at speeding up delinquent property tax collection, Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas’ office last week launched an online version of its annual tax sale.

Replacing the annual live auction with an online version cuts to four from 20 the number of days it takes to collect bids and payments and ready the funds for distribution, officials said last week when the annual sale was held.

The new technology also offers more transparency to those vying to buy the back taxes and ensures that winning bids are randomly chosen, said Patrick Nester, assistant chief financial officer for the treasurer’s office. The online auction replaces the county’s long-time tradition of holding live annual auctions where bidders would yell bids to an auctioneer. “Our purpose is to collect the property taxes and distribute them more quickly to the 1,600 governmental units,” throughout the county, Nester said.

About 165 bidders registered online this year to bid on 53,000 properties that had a total of $155 million in unpaid taxes. Cook County includes roughly 1.8 million properties.

Prior to its annual sale, the county publishes delinquent taxes in an effort to get late homeowners to pay overdue taxes. The remaining unpaid bills are auctioned off to bidders who purchase the delinquent taxes, giving them control of the property through a tax lien as well as the right to demand a certain percentage return on top of the tax bill from the homeowner looking to buy back the taxes in the future.

Replacing the live auction with a four-day online process makes the sale faster, easier, and more fair than when an auctioneer selected the winning bid among a group of bidders offering the same bid, Nester said.


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