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IRS offers surprising bargains at its auctions

Denver Business Journal

On the Money
From the  February 5, 2010 print edition

This time of year, it’s hard not to think about the government. It’s tax season, and many of us are contemplating our tax situation and probably bemoaning what we have to pay. Who wouldn’t rather spend money on a new house or car than pay taxes?

Those two activities may be more closely related than you think. The same agency that accepts our tax dollars also provides potential bargains on everything from real estate to airplanes.

The online auction site eBay is well-known. But far fewer have heard about the Treasury Executive Office of Assets Forfeiture.

This is the government office that manages auctions and administers the Treasury Forfeiture Fund (TFF). The TFF was established in 1992 as the successor to the Customs Forfeiture Fund. This fund accepts the proceeds from the sale of assets seized by the IRS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, the Secret Service and the Coast Guard.

Internal Revenue Code Section 6335 provides for the sale of property seized by the IRS. The code requires that seized property be sold by public auction or sealed bid auction. Either way, the auction is open to the public, and bidding is conducted by an auctioneer, usually a property and liquidation specialist with the IRS.

To find out about property the IRS has for sale, visit www.treasury.gov/auctions. You may be amazed by what you find there.

For example, the entire contents of a recreational vehicle-parts supply dealer were offered recently. The items included just about everything one might need for an RV, including water heaters, batteries, mats, rails, step motors, vent covers, propane tanks, carburetor kits, coil kits, grooved magnet kits and diodes.

There are three general categories of property: real estate, general property and automobiles.

Real property for sale throughout the United States and Puerto Rico includes homes, commercial buildings, vacant land and multifamily residences. These properties have been seized through the IRS’ criminal investigation division, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the U.S. Secret Service.

The Department of the Treasury has designated Albuquerque-based EG&G Technical Services as the prime contractor responsible for the maintenance and sale of seized and forfeited real property.

Property auctions often take place at the property’s location.

General property auctions are held in Dayton, N.J.; Miami; or Riverside, Calif. The Feb. 3 auction in Miami included artwork, boats, laptops, computer accessories, electronics, jewelry and sports equipment.

General property auctions are scheduled for March 10 in Riverside and April 14 in Dayton. Sales generally are held once a month at one or more of the locations.

Atlanta-based Manheim Auctions Government Services (www.manheimgovservices.com) manages auto auctions. The website provides an up-to-date list of upcoming sales and allows visitors to search the current inventory.

In addition to the IRS, Manheim Auctions Government Services also liquidates vehicles from many other public agencies and public utility companies. Some of the other agencies include Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; Drug Enforcement Agency; and the U.S. Customs Service. Obviously, these agencies provide an amazingly broad range of items of interest.

Some things to remember if you’re contemplating participating in government auctions are:

  • The government doesn’t provide any form of financing. All property is offered for sale “where is” and “as is” and without recourse against the United States. No guaranty or warranty, expressed or implied, is made as to the validity of the title, quality, quantity, weight, size or condition of any of the property, or its fitness for any use or purpose.
  • All payment for property sold must be in the form of cash, certified check, cashier’s check or treasurer’s check drawn from a U.S. bank or trust company, or a U.S. Postal, bank, express, or telegraph money order.

To sign up for email notifications, and learn more about the treasury department’s auctions, visit www.treasury.gov/auctions.

You also can search the department’s database of items available by visitinghttp://www.treasury.gov/auctions/irs/index.html.

It’s also wise to remember that the treasury department doesn’t send unsolicited requests, and doesn’t seek personal or financial information from the public by email.

© C. Stephen Guyer for American City Business Journals Inc. All rights reserved.