The Role of Tax Liens and Tax Deeds in Your Alternative Investment Strategy

In investing, diversification is key. While traditional investment options such as stocks and bonds have long dominated the market, alternative investment strategies are gaining popularity. One such strategy that savvy investors are exploring is tax liens and tax deeds. These unique investment vehicles offer the potential for lucrative returns while providing a relatively low-risk opportunity and are backed by real estate. In this article, we will see the role of tax liens and tax deeds in your alternative investment strategy, exploring what they are, how they work, and the benefits and considerations associated with them. So let’s get started!

What are Tax Liens?

When a property owner fails to pay their property taxes, the government can assert a legal claim known as a tax lien on the property. This claim serves as a means for the government to secure the unpaid taxes and may result in actions such as selling the tax lien or foreclosing on the property to recover the delinquent taxes. Tax liens can also be purchased by investors through tax lien auctions or sales, allowing them to assume the government's position and potentially earn a return on their investment.

What are Tax Lien Certificates?

Tax lien certificates are documents issued by local government authorities when property owners fail to pay their property taxes. These certificates are typically sold at auctions to investors who are willing to pay the outstanding tax amount on behalf of the property owner. In return, the investor receives a tax lien certificate, which serves as a legal claim against the property.

How Does Tax Lien Investing Work?

How Can I Start Investing In Tax Liens? Tax lien investing is a process in which investors purchase tax liens on properties with delinquent property taxes. Here's a step-by-step explanation of how tax lien investing generally works:

  • Research and Due Diligence

Investors start by researching tax lien properties and conducting due diligence. This involves identifying jurisdictions that offer tax lien sales, understanding the local rules and regulations, and evaluating the potential profitability of investing in a particular area.

  • Auction Participation

Tax liens are typically sold through public auctions. Investors participate in these auctions, either in person or online, by bidding on the tax liens for delinquent properties. Each investor sets a bid amount, which represents the total amount of unpaid taxes, penalties, and interest on the property.

  • Winning the Bid

If an investor has the highest bid on a tax lien, they win the auction. The investor is then issued a tax lien certificate, which represents their legal claim against the property for the outstanding taxes owed.

  • Redemption Period

After the tax lien is purchased, there is typically a redemption period during which the property owner can redeem the tax lien by paying the investor the outstanding amount, plus any applicable interest or penalties. The redemption period can vary by jurisdiction and may range from a few months to several years.

  • Earning Interest

If the property owner redeems the tax lien within the redemption period, the investor receives the full amount of their investment, including any accrued interest. The interest rates on tax liens can vary, but they are often set by state or local regulations.

  • Potential Foreclosure

If the property owner fails to redeem the tax lien within the redemption period, the investor may have the option to initiate a foreclosure process. This involves taking legal action to acquire ownership of the property. The investor may then choose to sell the property or hold onto it as an investment.

The Pros And Cons Of Investing In Tax Liens



Potential High Returns

Illiquidity: long redemption periods

Secured Investment

Due Diligence Requirements

Priority in Repayment

Potential Property Condition Issues

Diversification Opportunity

Competitive Auctions

Local Government Support

Property Redemption Risk or Foreclosure


What Are Tax Deeds?

A tax deed, on the other hand, is a document that legally grants property ownership to an investor. In some cases, when property owners fail to pay their outstanding taxes on property, the government may decide to sell the property itself rather than auction off the tax lien. By purchasing a tax deed, an investor acquires full ownership rights to the property. 

What are tax deed states? Florida, Texas, and Arizona are some tax deed states. 

How Does Investing In Tax Deed Sales Work

Investing in tax deed sales involves purchasing properties directly through public auctions or sales conducted by the local government. Here's an overview of how investing in tax deed sales typically works:

  • Identify Tax Deed Sales

Research and identify jurisdictions or states that conduct tax deed sales. Each state has its laws and procedures governing tax deed sales, so it's essential to comprehend the specific regulations of the area you are interested in.

  • Research Properties

Once you've identified a jurisdiction, research the available properties that will be offered at the tax deed sale. This involves reviewing property lists, property details, and any other relevant information provided by the local government.

  • Attend Auction or Sale

Attend the tax deed auction or sale, which may be held in-person, online, or through other methods, based on the jurisdiction. If attending in person, be prepared with the necessary registration, identification, and funds required to participate.

  • Bidding Process

Participate in the bidding process by offering a bid amount for the properties you are interested in. The highest bidder typically wins the property. It's important to establish a budget and set limits on how much you're willing to bid to avoid overpaying.

  • Payment and Ownership Transfer

If you are a successful bidder, you will need to pay for the property immediately or within a specified timeframe. Accepted payment methods and requirements may vary, so be prepared to meet the payment criteria set by the local government. Once payment is made, the ownership of the property is transferred to you through a tax deed or similar legal document.

  • Redemption Period (If Applicable)

Some jurisdictions offer a redemption period, during which the previous property owner can redeem the property by paying the delinquent taxes, penalties, and other associated costs. If the property is redeemed within the redemption period, you will typically receive a refund of your bid amount along with some interest.

  • Property Ownership and Management

If the redemption period expires without the property being redeemed, you become the legal owner of the property. You will need to take ownership and manage the property, which may involve addressing any outstanding issues, paying future property taxes, and potentially improving or selling the property for a profit.

Understanding the Process of Tax Liens and Tax Deeds

The process of acquiring tax liens and tax deeds varies from state to state within the United States, as tax laws are primarily governed at the local level. However, the general process can be broken down into the following steps:

  • Tax Lien or Tax Deed Auction

Local governments hold auctions to sell tax liens/tax deeds to investors. These auctions can be conducted in person or online, depending on the jurisdiction. Interested investors bid on the liens or deeds, with the highest bidder winning the auction.

  • Redemption Period

After the auction, the property owner typically enters a redemption period, during which they can repay the unpaid taxes, plus interest and penalties, to the lienholder. If the property owner fails to redeem the lien within the specified period, the lienholder can take further action to acquire the property.

  • Foreclosure Process

For tax liens, if the property owner does not redeem the lien within the period of redemption, the lienholder can initiate a foreclosure process, allowing them to seize the property. For tax deeds, investors already have ownership rights and can proceed to take possession of the property.

Benefits of Tax Liens and Tax Deeds in Alternative Investment Strategy

  • High Potential Returns

One of the primary attractions of tax liens and tax deeds is the potential for high returns. In some cases, investors can earn interest rates well above those offered by traditional investment options. Additionally, if an investor acquires a tax deed and obtains full ownership of the property, they can potentially realize significant gains if the property appreciates over time.

  • Collateralized Investment

Tax liens and tax deeds are secured investments since they are backed by real estate. In the case of tax liens, the investor has a legal claim on the property until the lien is redeemed. With tax deeds, investors own the property outright. This collateral provides a level of security for the investment.

  • Favorable Risk Profile

Compared to other alternative investment options, tax liens, and tax deeds typically have a lower risk profile. Since property taxes are a priority lien, they take precedence over other liens or mortgages on the property. This means that even if the property owner defaults on other debts, the investor is still entitled to collect the unpaid taxes.

Considerations for Investing in Tax Liens and Tax Deeds

  • Due Diligence

Before investing in tax liens or tax deeds, thorough research is crucial. Each state has its laws and regulations, and understanding the specific rules and requirements is essential. Investors should research the property, its condition, location, and potential market value to make informed decisions.

  • Redemption Risk

There is always a risk that the property owner will redeem the tax lien, especially if they are financially capable if the lienholder's expected return is minimal. Investors need to assess the likelihood of redemption and factor it into their investment strategy.

  • Property Condition and Marketability

In the case of tax deeds, the investor becomes the owner of the property. It is important to evaluate the property's condition and marketability. The property may require repairs, renovations, or legal processes to clear any other outstanding liens or encumbrances.

  • Liquidity

Tax liens and tax deeds are not highly liquid investments. Investors may need to wait for the period of redemption to expire or for the foreclosure process to be completed before realizing a return on their investment. Therefore, investors should carefully consider their liquidity needs and investment time horizon.

Tax Liens VS Tax Deeds: An Overview 


Tax Liens

Tax Deeds


Purchased through an auction process

Purchased through an auction process

Investment Type

Debt Investment

Equity Investment


Interest earned on the unpaid taxes

Potential capital gains from property appreciation


Relatively lower risk

Higher risk due to property condition and marketability


Lien on the property

Ownership of the property


The property owner can redeem the lien by paying the outstanding taxes, plus interest and penalties

No redemption period; the investor owns the property outright


Can initiate a foreclosure process if the lien is not redeemed within the period of redemption

Not applicable; the investor already owns the property

Property Condition

No ownership of the property; the condition may vary

Full ownership of the property; the condition is crucial


Limited liquidity; may require waiting for the period of redemption

Less liquid; may require time to sell the property

Legal Process

This may involve legal proceedings to enforce foreclosure and collect unpaid taxes

This may involve legal proceedings to clear any outstanding liens or encumbrances



Bottom Line 

Tax liens and tax deeds can play a valuable role in diversifying your investment portfolio and can serve as a powerful alternative investment strategy. These investment options offer the potential for high returns, relatively low risk, and secured collateral. However, investing in tax liens and tax deeds requires thorough research, an understanding of local laws, and careful consideration of the associated risks. By incorporating tax liens and tax deeds into your alternative investment strategy, you can tap into a unique avenue for potential financial growth and asset acquisition.

Remember, as with any investment, it is essential to consult with a financial advisor or tax professional to determine if tax liens and tax deeds align with your financial goals, risk tolerance, and overall investment strategy.

Assetmonk is one of the US's credible and top alternative investment platforms. It also provides alternative investment opportunities like structured real estate debts. Our real estate structured debt product offers a guaranteed IRR of 17%. And guess what These are backed by assets, and provide a reliable exit option. These products are carefully selected from thriving private markets and overseen by a registered trustee. 

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Q1. What is the best state to buy tax lien certificates?

A. Florida is the best state to buy tax lien certificates investments.

Q2. Is New York a tax lien state?

A. Yes, New York is a tax lien and a tax deed state. 

Q3. Is Virginia a tax deed or a lien state?

A. Virginia is a tax deed state, The tax-delinquent properties are sold outright by Virginia counties and municipalities.

Q4. Is California a tax lien or tax deed?

A. California is a tax deed state. 

Q5.  What is a delinquent tax?

A. Any unpaid taxes are referred to as delinquent taxes. Tax delinquency happens when you fail to file a tax return or pay the taxes owed by the due date. Taxes of any kind can become overdue. When taxes are not paid on time, the taxing authority usually starts charging interest and penalties.