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A person's income tax return is confidential and not available for public inspection, but there are a variety of public records that shed light on someone's financial situation. You can find out how much a person paid for a house and its current assessment, what type of business he owns and how big it is, whether his property has been foreclosed on, whether he has been sued for unpaid debts and whether he has filed for bankruptcy.
Checking for someone's assets or debts
Visit the county clerk/recorder's office, and ask for information about searching Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) filings. According to PublicRecords.Onlinesearches.com, these filings primarily deal with transactions involving personal property like financing statements, security instruments and liens. A contractor, for example, may file a lien on a property owner whose bill remains unpaid. There may be computer terminals in the clerk's office to search for UCC data and other records.
Check for real estate transactions, which can be searchable in the county clerk's office by name or date of sale. If the recording clerk doesn't have these files, check with the real property office or the county treasurer. The home sale listings should tell you how much the person paid for a home or property and where it is located. These listings also cover the sale of businesses and commercial property.
Check assessment and property tax records at the the town/city clerk's office. The assessment, or taxable value of a property, may differ from the sale price of the home recorded at the county office. The town clerk or chamberlain can tell you the annual property taxes on a home and whether those taxes are past due. The clerk can also tell you if the person has received a municipal small business loan; the details of that arrangement would also be public record.
Ask the clerk at county court if you can search the civil court docket by name. This may be accessible by a computer terminal in the clerk's office, and it may be on a state court system's website. Look for judgments, which will tell you if the court ordered payment of a debt after the person you are researching was sued. The plaintiff's name and the total amount of the judgment is public record.
Search for bankruptcy court records online. Bankruptcy courts are federal entities and use a shared database that can be accessed remotely, according to the United States Judiciary. Visit the PACER website to search by name. Users are required to register, so they can make arrangements to pay for copies of documents that are viewed and printed.
County offices provide only that county's information. For a broader search, you would need to visit multiple counties or submit an information request to the appropriate state's secretary of state.
Some newspapers publish real estate listings, new business certificates, judgments and bankruptcy filings. Many have searchable archives, though some charge a fee for the full article.
There are a variety of companies online that perform public record searches and claim that they can tell you a person's household income.
- County offices provide only that county's information. For a broader search, you would need to visit multiple counties or submit an information request to the appropriate state's secretary of state.
- Some newspapers publish real estate listings, new business certificates, judgments and bankruptcy filings. Many have searchable archives, though some charge a fee for the full article.
- There are a variety of companies online that perform public record searches and claim that they can tell you a person's household income.
Aaron Gifford is based in New York. He has been on staff at the "Syracuse Post-Standard," the "Watertown Daily Times" and the "Oneida Daily Dispatch." He's also written for "Long Island Newsday," "Empire State Report" magazine and "In Good Health." He has been writing professionally since 1995. Gifford holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University at Buffalo.