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Has anyone invested in or know much about Tax Lien Certificates? There are companies that offer them as
'government-backed' investments returning 12% per annum. Most of what's on the Web are sites offering to sell
books on this topic and there are some pretty wild claims of 18% - 40% returns.

I think you are talking about unpaid real estate taxes. The goverment, since they can not collect, sells you the right to collect. You will not find the goverment picking up your loss.

These can be good investments if you are skilled in the area. Each local goverment may have different rules so make sure you understand the rules before you invest and you may need to talk to an attorney to make sure you understand the risks.
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