Introduction to Lien

Voluntary liens are created by mutual agreement between the debtor and the creditor, such as a mortgage or a car loan. In contrast, involuntary liens are imposed by law, often due to unpaid taxes, judgments, or other legal obligations. Tax liens, in particular, are imposed by the government on a property when the owner fails to pay their taxes. Investors can purchase tax lien certificates, which grant them the right to collect the outstanding taxes, along with interest and penalties, from the property owner. This form of investment offers potential returns and diversification for investors, but it also comes with risks and challenges that must be carefully considered before entering the market (Investopedia, 2021; Nolo, 2021).

Types of Liens: Voluntary and Involuntary

Liens can be broadly categorized into two types: voluntary and involuntary liens. Voluntary liens are created by a contractual agreement between a debtor and a creditor, where the debtor willingly grants the creditor a security interest in their property as collateral for a loan or other obligation. Common examples of voluntary liens include mortgages and car loans, where the borrower agrees to put up their property as security for the loan (Carpenter, 2017).

In contrast, involuntary liens are imposed on a debtor’s property without their consent, usually as a result of a legal judgment or statutory requirement. These liens arise when a debtor fails to fulfill their financial obligations, such as unpaid taxes, court judgments, or unpaid child support. Involuntary liens can be further classified into statutory liens, which are created by law, and judicial liens, which are created by court judgments (Miller & Jentz, 2011). Both types of involuntary liens serve to protect the interests of the creditor by providing them with a legal claim to the debtor’s property in the event of non-payment.


  • Carpenter, C. (2017). Real Estate Principles. Rockwell Publishing.
  • Miller, R. L., & Jentz, G. A. (2011). Business Law Today: The Essentials. Cengage Learning.

Tax Liens and Tax Lien Certificates

Tax liens are legal claims imposed by a government authority on a property due to the owner’s unpaid taxes. These liens ensure that the government has a priority claim on the property, which can be enforced through a tax lien sale if the delinquent taxes remain unpaid. Tax lien certificates, on the other hand, represent an investment opportunity for individuals and institutions. When an investor purchases a tax lien certificate, they essentially pay the outstanding taxes on behalf of the property owner. In return, the investor receives the right to collect the delinquent taxes, along with interest and penalties, from the property owner. If the owner fails to repay the debt within a specified redemption period, the investor may initiate foreclosure proceedings to recover their investment. Thus, tax lien certificates offer a potentially lucrative investment opportunity, albeit with certain risks and challenges associated with property ownership and market fluctuations (Moser, 2017; Sisson, 2019).

The Process of Investing in Tax Lien Certificates

The process of investing in tax lien certificates begins with identifying properties with delinquent taxes, which are usually listed by local government authorities. Investors can then participate in auctions, either in-person or online, to bid on these tax lien certificates. Winning bidders pay the outstanding tax amount to the local government, effectively purchasing the lien on the property. In return, the property owner is obligated to repay the investor, along with interest, within a specified redemption period, which varies by jurisdiction.

During the redemption period, the property owner can settle their tax debt, allowing the investor to recoup their initial investment plus interest. If the property owner fails to pay within the redemption period, the investor may initiate foreclosure proceedings to acquire the property or force its sale. It is essential for investors to conduct thorough due diligence on the properties and understand the local laws governing tax lien investments to minimize risks and maximize returns (Cohen, 2018; Fernandez, 2020).


  • Cohen, S. (2018). The Little Book of Tax Lien Investing. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
  • Fernandez, J. (2020). Tax Lien Investing Secrets: How You Can Get 8% to 36% Return on Your Money Without the Typical Risk of Real Estate Investing or the Uncertainty of the Stock Market! Independently published.

Risks and Challenges in Tax Lien Investing

Tax lien investing, while potentially profitable, is not without its risks and challenges. One significant risk is the possibility of the property owner defaulting on their tax obligations, which may result in the investor having to foreclose on the property and bear the costs associated with selling it (Ross, 2020). Additionally, there is the risk of the property being sold at auction before the investor can acquire the tax lien certificate, leaving them empty-handed (Sullivan, 2023).

Another challenge is the fluctuation of property values, which can impact the profitability of tax lien investments. If the property is located in an area with declining property values, the investor may lose money even if the property owner pays their taxes (Sullivan, 2023). Furthermore, tax lien investments require patience, as it can take months or even years for the property owner to pay their delinquent taxes and for the investor to collect their interest payments (Sullivan, 2023).

Lastly, navigating the legal and regulatory landscape of tax lien investing can be complex, as laws and procedures vary by jurisdiction (Ross, 2020). Investors must be diligent in understanding the specific rules and regulations governing tax lien investments in their chosen location.


  • Ross, J. (2020). The Risks and Rewards of Tax Lien Investing. Forbes. Retrieved from
  • Sullivan, M. (2023). What Wikipedia can’t tell you about tax lien certificates and tax lien investing.

Profit Expectations and Timeframe for Tax Lien Investments

Profit expectations and timeframes for tax lien investments can vary significantly depending on factors such as the jurisdiction, the property’s condition, and the investor’s strategy. Generally, investors can expect annual returns ranging from 5% to 36%, with higher returns often associated with higher risks (Investopedia, n.d.). However, it is essential to note that these returns are not guaranteed, and investors should conduct thorough due diligence before investing.

The timeframe for tax lien investments is primarily determined by the redemption period, which is the time allowed for the property owner to repay their delinquent taxes and any accrued interest or penalties. This period varies by state, typically ranging from six months to three years (Nolo, n.d.). Investors should be prepared to wait for the duration of the redemption period before realizing any returns on their investment. Additionally, if the property owner fails to redeem the tax lien, the investor may need to initiate foreclosure proceedings, which can further extend the investment timeframe.


  • Investopedia. (n.d.). Tax Lien. Retrieved from
  • Nolo. (n.d.). How the Tax Lien Foreclosure Process Works. Retrieved from

Online Platforms for Tax Lien Certificate Investing

Online platforms have revolutionized the process of investing in tax lien certificates, making it more accessible and convenient for investors. Some notable platforms include Bid4Assets, CivicSource, and Bid4Assets is a popular online auction site that offers tax lien certificates from various counties across the United States. The platform provides detailed information on each property, allowing investors to make informed decisions before placing their bids. CivicSource, on the other hand, specializes in tax lien and tax deed auctions for properties located in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. This platform offers a user-friendly interface and comprehensive property information, making it easy for investors to navigate and participate in auctions. is another valuable resource for investors, providing access to tax lien and tax deed auction listings from multiple states. The platform also offers educational materials and resources to help investors better understand the tax lien investing process. These online platforms have significantly simplified the process of investing in tax lien certificates, allowing investors to participate in auctions from the comfort of their homes or offices.


Alternative Tax-Related Investment Options

Alternative tax-related investment options offer investors a variety of opportunities to diversify their portfolios and potentially generate income. One such option is tax deed investing, where investors purchase properties with delinquent taxes at public auctions, often acquiring them at a fraction of their market value. This strategy allows investors to either resell the properties for a profit or rent them out for a steady income stream.

Another option is investing in municipal bonds, which are debt securities issued by local governments to finance public projects. These bonds are generally considered low-risk investments and offer tax-exempt interest income, making them attractive to investors seeking a stable return with tax advantages. Additionally, investors can explore tax-advantaged accounts, such as individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and 401(k) plans, which allow for tax-deferred or tax-free growth of investments, depending on the account type.

Lastly, investors may consider investing in real estate investment trusts (REITs), which are companies that own and manage income-producing real estate properties. REITs are required to distribute at least 90% of their taxable income to shareholders, often resulting in attractive dividend yields. While dividends from REITs are generally taxable, they can provide a steady source of income and potential capital appreciation for investors.

(Investopedia, n.d.; Corporate Finance Institute, n.d.; U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, n.d.)


Getting Started with Tax Lien Certificate Investing

Getting started with tax lien certificate investing requires a thorough understanding of the process and the risks involved. Begin by conducting extensive research on tax lien investing, including the laws and regulations governing tax liens in the jurisdiction where you plan to invest. Familiarize yourself with the auction process, as tax lien certificates are typically sold at public auctions. Attend local auctions to gain firsthand experience and observe the bidding process.

Next, determine your investment budget and strategy, taking into consideration the potential risks and returns associated with tax lien investing. It is advisable to diversify your investments to mitigate risks. Utilize online platforms and resources to identify tax lien investment opportunities and gather information on the properties involved. Networking with experienced investors and joining investment groups or pools can provide valuable insights and support.

Finally, ensure you have a clear understanding of the redemption period and the rights and responsibilities associated with owning a tax lien certificate. Keep in mind that patience is crucial, as returns on tax lien investments may take months or even years to materialize. Continuously educate yourself on tax lien investing and stay updated on market trends and changes in regulations to maximize your investment potential.


Group Investing and Investment Pools in Tax Liens

Group investing and investment pools in tax lien investing refer to the collaborative approach taken by multiple investors to pool their resources and expertise to invest in tax lien certificates. This strategy allows investors to diversify their portfolios, mitigate risks, and potentially increase returns by leveraging the collective knowledge and experience of the group. In such arrangements, investors typically form a legal entity, such as a limited liability company (LLC) or a partnership, to manage the pooled funds and make investment decisions.

The pooled funds are then used to bid on tax lien certificates at auctions or purchase them through secondary markets. The profits generated from the interest payments or property acquisitions resulting from the tax liens are then distributed among the investors according to their respective contributions. By participating in group investing or investment pools, investors can benefit from the shared expertise, reduced individual risk exposure, and the potential for higher returns due to the increased purchasing power of the pooled funds. However, it is essential for investors to carefully evaluate the management structure, investment strategy, and track record of the group or pool before committing their funds to ensure alignment with their investment goals and risk tolerance.


Resources and Educational Materials for Tax Lien Investors

A variety of resources and educational materials are available for individuals interested in tax lien investing, catering to different levels of expertise and learning preferences. Books authored by experienced investors and industry professionals provide comprehensive insights into the intricacies of tax lien investing, while online forums and blogs offer a platform for sharing experiences, tips, and advice among fellow investors. For a more structured learning experience, numerous courses, both online and in-person, are available, covering topics such as the fundamentals of tax lien investing, strategies for success, and navigating the legal aspects of the process. Additionally, attending industry events, conferences, and seminars can provide valuable networking opportunities and access to expert knowledge. It is essential for prospective investors to utilize these resources to gain a thorough understanding of tax lien investing and make informed decisions in their investment journey.


Generating Income through Tax Lien Certificate Investments

Generating income through tax lien certificate investments involves purchasing tax lien certificates at auctions or through secondary markets, which grant the investor the right to collect delinquent property taxes, penalties, and interest from the property owner. When the property owner pays the outstanding taxes, the investor receives the principal amount invested plus the accrued interest, generating income. The interest rates on tax lien certificates can range from 5% to 36%, depending on the jurisdiction, making them an attractive investment option for those seeking high returns (Moser, 2017). However, it is essential to conduct thorough due diligence on the property and understand the local tax lien laws, as the redemption period and interest rates vary across states (Sullivan, 2023). Additionally, investors should diversify their tax lien certificate portfolio to mitigate risks associated with property ownership, market fluctuations, and potential non-payment of taxes (Moser, 2017).


  • Moser, J. (2017). The Book on Tax Lien Investing: How to Invest in Tax Lien Certificates and Tax Deeds for Maximum Profit. BiggerPockets Publishing.
  • Sullivan, M. (2023). What Wikipedia can’t tell you about tax lien certificates and tax lien investing.
Category: Money