What the experts say
Using tax debt to steal your house
A county in Michigan seized a man’s home, sold it, and pocketed the revenue after he underpaid his property taxes by $8.41, said Eric Boehm in Reason. Uri Rafaeli paid $60,000 for a three-bedroom, 1,500-square-foot home in Southfield, Mich., as a rental property in 2011. He made a mistake on his property tax payments and miscalculated the interest he owed by less than $9. A year later, Rafaeli’s property was one of 11,000 that Oakland County put up for auction, thanks to “Michigan’s uniquely aggressive property tax statute.” After a property is auctioned, the county also gets to keep the proceeds, creating a “perverse incentive for county officials to effectively steal from their constituents.” One Michigan county official emailed she was “tickled pink” to seize a $3.5 million property the day after a tax deadline passed.
Falling earnings for gig workers
“Delivery drivers for many third-party platforms say they’re being wrung out” by changing algorithms and pay structures, said Abha Bhattarai in The Washington Post. Apps such as DoorDash, Postmates, Instacart, and Fresh Direct have “gamified” gig work, “offering sporadic bonuses for delivering a certain number of orders, for example.” This has let the platforms “make incremental changes” to their payment algorithms “without raising red flags.” Indeed, “Postmates workers said they are making 30 percent less than they once did after the company changed its algorithms and eliminated a $4-per-job guarantee in May.” Instacart drivers are guaranteed 60 cents per mile between the store and customer—based solely on distance rather than the time it takes to complete the trip—which adds up to “an ever-changing guessing game.”
Nationwide glut of unclaimed assets
Government agencies are holding tens of billions of dollars in unclaimed assets, said Mark Stein in The New York Times. Estimates vary, but some suspect the face value of matured Treasury savings bonds could be as much as $80 billion, “and the total has been growing faster than states can find owners or heirs.” In 2015, states returned $3.2 billion to the rightful owners, but the agencies received more than $7.6 billion in new assets. “Gift cards are a fairly recent source of revenue in some states, which claim the value on those cards when they aren’t redeemed.” There is no central database for unclaimed assets, but you can find listings for 41 states at MissingMoney.com.