IRS Auction

The Internal Revenue Service will hold an auction of seized property in Houston Wednesday, and as Jim Bell reports, this one is just for peoplelooking for the perfect gift, and who have a lot of money to spend.

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It's standard procedure for the IRS to seize personal and commercial property of people who can't or won't pay their taxes. They take just about anything of value that can be auctioned to resolve the tax liability -- land, houses, cars, boats, antiques, jewelry -- you name it. IRS auction arranger David Chapman says he's seen it all -- even a Ferrari L40 Le Mans formula one race car.

"There were only one or two in the United States, and when we went to sale with that, we had people just come by that said 'you know I've had a poster of that car on my wall since I was a little boy, and I never have seen one in person, I just wanted to come get my picture made with it."

IRS auctions are always open to the public, and they're advertised in advance to give as many people as possible a chance to inspect the merchandise and bid on them, either in person, by mail, by phone or on the Internet. Chapman says he did that recently at an auction in the Virgin Islands.

"We had people at the sale location where we had it in the Virgin Islands, and we also had people that had registered from the United States that were in continuous touch with us by e-mail, and by phone. So yes, we do try to do that whenever it's advantageous to the type of property that we're selling."

Which brings us to the Houston auction Wednesday. Chapman says it's a large selection of pricy collectibles made in the style of Faberge eggs by Vivian Alexander of Louisiana.

"We've got jewelry boxes, clocks, pendants, card holders, pill boxes, and ornaments. If you go to our website, you can take a look at them. They're very unique. Some are ladybugs. It's hard to imagine a purse the size of an egg."

Interested bidders can inspect them in advance at an open house tomorrow from 9am till noon at the Westin Oaks Hotel, and the auction is Wednesday. Chapman says successful bids must be paid in full the same day, and they don't take personal checks or credit cards. They only accept cash, certified checks or money orders. There's more information, and photos of the auction items on our website KUHF dot org. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.