Tax Sale Research Brief Highlights Systemic Challenges and Opportunities

Case Studies

June 2021

Abandoned properties are a wicked challenge facing Memphis neighborhoods, and this won’t change during and after the pandemic. To make matters worse, abandoned properties are often delinquent on local property taxes, and in a state with no income tax, property tax revenue is the primary way local government generates revenue to deliver services. One of the most common ways Shelby County and the City of Memphis attempt to bring abandoned properties back on the tax rolls and recoup some of that lost revenue is through the delinquent tax sale process where local government forecloses on owners who have not paid their taxes for at least two years or more, though it’s often much longer. Using our Memphis Property Hub data warehouse, we estimate that there are over 10,000 properties in the City of Memphis that are delinquent at least 5 years or more. This contributes to nearly $70,000,000 in retrievable revenue for the City.

Since tax sales are our most common strategy to address this key issue, analysts, and researchers from Innovate’s Data Mid-South team and from national partners Center for Community Progress took a closer look at one specific tax sale. Our goal was to see what happened to the properties that were taken to sale and what this can tell us about Memphis’ revitalization system.

If you want to learn more about the impacts of abandoned properties in your neighborhood, or if you’d like to explore the Memphis Property Hub, please write to us at

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