I have an issue where I keep receiving a property tax bill for a previous resident every month. I have been writing things like "return to sender" or "no longer at this address" but I keep getting the tax bill. I read these two questions which say that simply throwing away the mail is illegal. However it is minor nuisance to keep having to do this every month for the past 10 years.

Finally I decided to call the sender (the treasurer/tax collector for my county) and the clerk there just said I can just throw it away and there is nothing they can do to update the system.

This made me wonder if I am now allowed to throw away the mail since the sender themselves said to throw it away. And if they can't "update the system", returning it to the sender will be useless. My only hesitation is that they are probably an entry level employee and aren't really in a position of authority. What if I got in contact with the head of the local treasury department and they themself said to throw away the mail. Can I do it then?

And just as a totally hypothetical scenario, what if the president of the United States called me and said I can throw away the mail. Is it ok to do it then? I am reminded of situations where there is a traffic accident and police officers tell you to cross a double yellow line. It's normally illegal to do so but since police officers instruct you then it's ok.

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    Are you the "new" property owner? If not, who has been paying the property tax for the last 10 years? Commented Jan 29 at 18:39
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    @MichaelHall Yes I am. I have been paying my own property tax for the last 10 years but I guess the previous owner has unpaid taxes. I found out I am not liable for that. Commented Jan 29 at 19:04
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    I think you are right about this being an entry level person without access or authority. Although this doesn't answer the question, I would go to the county in person, talk to someone higher up, verify that this person is no longer listed on the title or deed, and insist that they pursue back taxes via other means. They work for you after all, and they can and should update their records, especially after 10 years! Maybe follow up with the Post Office to block mail addressed to that name. Commented Jan 29 at 19:14
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    P.S. I'd verify there isn't a lien on the property as well! (being told you are "not liable" verbally means nothing if there is a lein) Back taxes are normally cleared up at the time of sale using proceeds from the sale before the seller is ever paid. Somebody didn't do their job 10 years ago, and the issue may be bigger than getting unwanted mail. Commented Jan 29 at 21:29
  • Worth noting that while in most contexts you are entitled to rely upon what someone with "apparent authority" to say something on behalf of their organization, this rule usually does not apply to governments.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 29 at 21:51


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