When the tax obligations relating to a parcel of property are unclear, a procedure known as a reference may be taken to ascertain all delinquent revenues together with all the costs, fees, penalties and interest. Notice of a reference must be given to all officers whose duty it is to collect delinquent revenue.1The master’s reference report may be made before the sale, and even after confirmation of the sale, but must be made before distribution of the sale proceeds.2
Reports under reference in delinquent tax sales are made pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 53 on an order of reference by the court. Within 20 days after the date of the order of reference the clerk should set a time and place for a meeting of the parties or their attorneys in regard to the amounts due on the property. The clerk must notify in writing the parties or their attorneys. The clerk should proceed with reasonable diligence. Either party, on notice to the parties and clerk, may apply to the court for an order requiring the clerk to speed the proceedings and to make his or her report. If a party fails to appear at the time and place appointed, the clerk may proceed ex parte or may adjourn the proceedings to a future day, giving notice in writing to the absent party of the adjournment. After the clerk prepares the report regarding the amounts due, he or she must mail a notice that the report is on file at the clerk's office.3
1T.C.A. § 67-5-2416.
2State v. Southern Lumber Mfg. Co., 57 S.W.2d 454, 455 (Tenn. 1933). The better alternative would be to make the report before the sale to correctly ascertain all amounts due on the property at the time of the sale.
3Tenn. R. Civ. P. 53.