A tax deed provides actual ownership rights or title to a property. In some states, the local taxing government (typically the county, but in some states the municipality) will foreclose on a property when, after an amount of time prescribed by state law, the property owner fails to pay the property taxes owed. The resulting tax deed properties are then sold at tax deed or tax foreclosure sales. (In other states, the local taxing government will place a lien on the property, and sell the liens at tax lien certificate sales.)
At a typical public or online sale, the minimum bid on a tax deed property starts out at the taxes owed plus any fees or penalties. The bidder willing to pay the most wins the property. Tax deed properties purchased through the mail (or “over-the-counter”) have no competitive bidding.
Some states have a legal challenge period during which the property owner (or other interested party) can dispute the tax sale. You normally will have to wait until that period expires before you can clear title to the property.
State laws govern the tax sale process, although there can be nuances between counties or municipalities.