Is there a requirement that a vehicle be sold in an arm’s length transaction if there are taxes owed on it? I am wondering if I can seize a vehicle that was sold to a family member by a taxpayer who was trying to avoid the DMV stop and payment of delinquent taxes. I was told somewhere that there was an "arm’s length" collection procedure in the Code of Virginia, but I have not been able to pinpoint it. - TACS

The Code (58.1-3941) provides that any property of the debtor may be seized for taxes even if it passes to a third party. There is a lien for the taxes on the property that remains with the property even if it is sold, permitting the treasurer to seize the property for the delinquent taxes even from the new owner. There is, however, an exception to this rule for highway vehicles which provides they shall not remain subject to distress if conveyed to a bona fide purchaser, one who pays fair value and has no notice of the tax obligation. In your situation, the family member can be imputed with knowledge of the taxes owed, and would therefore not be a bona fide purchaser. In this case, you could continue to exercise the power of distress against the vehicle since it is specifically assessed with taxes. This does not make the “purchaser” personally liable, but their vehicle can be seized and sold for the taxes assessed upon it.