Rhode Island Auction Law

Officially the State of Rhode Island, is a state in the New England region of the United States. It is the smallest U.S. state by area and the seventh-least populous (1,098,163 according to the 2020 census), but it is also the second-most densely populated behind New Jersey. The state takes its name from Rhode Island; however, most of the state is on the mainland. The state has land borders with Connecticut to the west, Massachusetts to the north and east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the south via Rhode Island Sound and Block Island Sound. It also shares a small maritime border with New York. Providence is the state capital and most populous city in Rhode Island.

Formerly named the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations since its accession to the Union in 1790, voters in the state approved an amendment in November 2020 to the state constitution, formally renaming itself the State of Rhode Island. Rhode Island’s official nickname is the “Ocean State”, a reference to the large bays and inlets that amount to about 14% of its total area.

Sales subject to duty.

All sales by auction are made by an auctioneer and are subject to a duty to the state, except the following: 

  1. Sales made pursuant to any judgment, sentence, decree, order, or rule of any court or judicial officer of the state or of any court of the United States having jurisdiction within the state; 
  2. Sales made by virtue of any writ, execution, warrant of distress, or order of law, or the property of any city or town, sales of property held by executors, administrators, or guardians of estates lying or being within the state; 
  3. Sales of pews, or choice of pews in houses of public worship; and 
  4. Sales of goods exhibited at any fair held by the Rhode Island society for the encouragement of domestic industry, or by the Aquidneck agricultural society, and which may be sold by auction during the continuance of the fair. 

Duty on Auction Sales

The duty upon all property sold by auction in the state and which is liable to duty is one-tenth of one percent (.1%), and inures one-eighth ( 1/8) part of the duty to the use of the city or town in which sales are made and the remainder of the duty to the use of the state. 

Purchase by auctioneer or original owner. 

Whenever any auction has actually begun and the final purchase or bidding has been made by the owner of the property, by the auctioneer or by any person employed by either of them, the duty is paid as if the bidding has been made by any other person.

Accounts rendered by auctioneers.

  1. Every auctioneer shall by January 31, and July 31, as of December 31 and June 30, render a just and true account, in writing, subscribed by the auctioneer, to the general treasurer of all property subject to duty sold by the auctioneer, the amount of each day’s sale and the date of the sale. 
  2. The treasury, at reasonable times and upon reasonable notice, may examine the records of any licensee to determine whether the person has complied with the account. 
  3. The treasury may file a request with the director of business regulations to deny, suspend, or revoke the license of any licensee for not rendering the account. 

Oath to auctioneer’s account.

The auctioneer shall take, before some magistrate authorized to administer oaths, the following oath, to be endorsed and certified on the account so rendered: “I, [naming the person] do solemnly swear (or, affirm) that this account, to which I have subscribed my name, contains a just and true account of all property sold or struck off by me, subject to duty by law within the time mentioned in the account, and of the days on which the properties were sold and that I have attended the sales personally, and have examined the entries of the sales in the book kept by me for that purpose, and know this account to be in all respects correct”; to which oath the auctioneer subscribes his or her name.

Payments to general and city or town treasurers. 

 Every auctioneer shall, within ten (10) days after rendering the account and taking the oath under § 44-21-7, pay the amount of duty upon the account of sales to the general treasurer for the use of the state, and the amount of duty due the city or town, to the city or town treasurer; and in case no sales on which duties are payable have been made, the auctioneer shall make an affidavit of this fact at the time and in the manner directed by this chapter, and transmit the affidavit to the general treasurer.

Forfeiture for neglect of duty by the auctioneer. 

Every auctioneer who fails to render his or her account or affidavit to the general treasurer, or fails to pay the duty due the state or city or town at the time and in the manner provided: 

  1. May be required to pay to the state and/or city or town interest at the annual rate of twelve percent (12%) from the date the duty should have been paid; and/or 
  2. Shall forfeit for every neglect five hundred dollars ($500), to be sued for by the general treasurer to the use of the state, unless the neglect is not paying the duty due the city or town, and then by the city or town treasurer to the use of the city or town.

Certain sales exempted

The limitations contained in this article as to the times and duration of auction sales and the persons for whom auctions may be held, shall not apply to auction sales of real estate, livestock, perishable fruits and products, farming tools and implements, nor to the selling of eggs and poultry at auction within the city under the supervision of the bureau of markets and the department of agriculture and conservation of the state. Said provisions shall also not apply to the sale of goods, wares and merchandise in job lots or at wholesale, nor to receivers’ or other judicial sales, sales by executors or administrators, by assignees under assignments for the benefit of creditors, by lienors or by public officers in the manner prescribed by law, nor to auction sales of used household furniture and effects purchased from or sold on account of a householder who has actually used such furniture and effects in his household in the city.

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