Controller says Philadelphia needs to do a better job collecting what it’s owed

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The city controller says Philadelphia could be doing a much better job of collecting taxes. 

Controller Alan Butkovitz says other major cities collect a higher percentage of taxes they are owed than Philadelphia does. And, in Philadelphia, it can take more than two years to bring delinquent properties to sheriff sale.

A few small changes here could make a big difference, Butkovitz said.

“Increasing efforts to contact property owners immediately when their taxes become past due past March 31,” he said. “Reporting past-due property owners to credit bureaus. Investing in productivity-enhancing technology for the sheriff’s office so that sheriff sales occur expeditiously and predictably.”

City officials are working to collect more overdue taxes, according to Mark McDonald, spokesman for Mayor Michael Nutter.

“If you look at the one-year collection rate, which is what we focus on, in the last couple years it has run at 93 percent,” he said. “True, that’s not 100 percent [but] the situation is improving, we believe.”

Improved collections could benefit city government and Philadelphia schools.

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