Taxman auctions widow's home over $6 bill

A Pennsylvania judge ruled that it's perfectly OK for state tax authorities to have sold a widow's home at auction because she failed to pay a $6.30 tax bill.


A widow was given ample notice before her $280,000 house was sold at a tax auction three years ago over $6.30 in unpaid interest, a Pennsylvania judge has ruled.

The decision last week turned down Eileen Battisti's request to reverse the September 2011 sale of her home outside Aliquippa in western Pennsylvania.

"I paid everything, and didn't know about the $6.30," Battisti said. "For the house to be sold just because of $6.30 is crazy."

Mrs. Battisti has discovered the essence of government. Crazy is as crazy does and. as the judge explains, when the tax bureaucrats dot all the "i's" and cross all the "t's" there's nothing anyone can do to stop them:

There is no doubt that (she) had actual receipt of the notification of the tax upset sale on July 7, 2011, and Aug. 16, 2011," the judge wrote. "Moreover, on Aug. 12, 2011, a notice of sale was sent by first class mail and was not returned."

Gee - like the Post Office has never made a mistake, right? They just caught a mail carrier in Michigan who failed to deliver thousands of pieces of mail.

The property sold for about $116,000, and most of that money will be paid to Battisti if further appeals are unsuccessful. An attorney for the purchaser did not return a phone message on Monday.

Joe Askar, Beaver County's chief solicitor, said the judge got the decision right, based on the law.

"The county never wants to see anybody lose their home, but at the same time the tax sale law, the tax real estate law, doesn't give a whole lot of room for error, either," Askar said.

Apparently, notifying the taxpayer by mail is enough. Perhaps a courtesy call might have been in order since Mrs. Battisti didn't understand her predicament:

Battisti said her husband handled the paperwork for the property's taxes before he passed away in 2004.

"It's bad — she had some hard times, I guess her husband kind of took care of a lot of that stuff," Askar said. "It seemed that she was having a hard time coping with the loss of her husband — that just made it set in a little more."

It should go without saying that there are tax scofflaws out there who owe tens of thousands of dollars. We don't see the county rushing to sell their homes because they're rich enough to afford an attorney who works with the tax authorities to pay it back.

In fact, Mrs. Battisti was working with authorities to lower her tax bill. At the time of the sale, she owed $235. Why the county couldn't have worked with her further is a mystery.

Perhaps someone should look into the sale of the home and see who purchased it. It wouldn't be the first time a widow was tossed into the street to satisfy a crony of someone in government.

If you experience technical problems, please write to