To aid in the collection of property taxes, there exists a lien on the property to secure payment of the tax. The lien for taxes becomes a first lien on the property as of January 1 of the tax year, and takes priority over any pre-existing liens on the property;1the tax lien is superior to mortgage liens, regardless of whether the taxes accrue before or after the execution of the mortgage. This first lien is, however, superceded by prefiled federal tax liens.2There is no lien against leased personal property assessed to a lessee.3
While real estate contracts may alter liability between the parties to the contract, the owner as of January 1 is responsible for payment of the tax for the entire year.4The taxes are a lien on the fee in the property, and not merely upon the interest of the person to whom the property is or ought to be assessed, and includes any and all other interests in the property, whether in reversion or remainder, or of lienors, or interests of any nature whatsoever. Taxes are a lien on the land even if the owner is unknown or the land has been assessed in a wrong name. However, a lien for taxes which are assessed against a leasehold interest in real property, or against any improvements on real property where the owner is exempt from taxation, extends only to the leasehold interest.5
1T.C.A. §§ 67-5-2101, 67-5-2102.
2United States v. Dyna-Tex, Inc., 372 F. Supp. 278, 280 (Tenn. 1972).
3T.C.A. § 67-5-2102.
4Op. Tenn. Atty. Gen. 86-39 (February 21, 1986).
5T.C.A. § 67-5-2102; See also 23 Tenn. Juris. "Taxation" § 44 at page 69 (1985).