Department budget boost could secure $69 million in back taxes, Philly revenue chief says

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Philadelphia's  Revenue Department is hoping for an extra $4 million in next fiscal year's budget to continue chipping away at the problem of delinquent taxes. (Nathaniel Hamilton/for NewsWorks)

Philadelphia's Revenue Department is hoping for an extra $4 million in next fiscal year's budget to continue chipping away at the problem of delinquent taxes. (Nathaniel Hamilton/for NewsWorks)

Philadelphia has come under fire in recent years for its failure to collect delinquent taxes.

The city’s Revenue Department is hoping for an extra $4 million in next fiscal year’s budget to continue chipping away at that problem.

About half of that money would go toward making sure distributors pay Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s three-cents-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks — that is, if it passes. The other half would help expand recent efforts to improve revenue collections. 

“One of the things we’re looking at is what language works best and what kinds of things in bills and notices really motivates people to pay,” said Revenue Commissioner Frank Breslin. “And as we study that, we find that just noticing people more frequently is effective.”

Breslin wants to double the number of notices the department sends out to those in arrears next year. 

The Revenue Department also wants to be able to pay for lawyers to take more legal action against tax delinquents through certain programs, such as sheriff’s sales and a measure that gives the department the authority to close businesses that are not tax-compliant. 

Breslin is hoping for a good return on the investment; the department’s estimated it can collect $69 million more than it would have otherwise over five years as a result of these efforts. Whether the department gets the funding to do that will be up to City Council.

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