A new Pew study released today finds that Philadelphia’s level of delinquent property taxes is above the national average. It estimates the city would be reasonably able to collect 30 percent of it, however, if they city ramped up collection efforts, it may be able to collect as much as half.
The city of Philadelphia is owed more than $500 million in unpaid property taxes and late penalties. Out of that, a Pew study estimates about thirty percent of that to be collectable. That’s $155 million.
But why only 30 percent?
Thomas Ginsberg, an officer at Pew, says Philadelphia is one of the only counties in the state without a clear collections timetable for property taxes. The law gives the city the authority to set its own deadlines, which it hasn’t. The law has been on the books since 1923.
Other Pennsylvania municipalities have opted to observe a later law that sets more stringent guidelines for property tax collection.
“Philadelphia’s tax collectors would have to use all of their statutory powers, including foreclosure, more strictly than they have been until now, and would have to ensure that delinquent owners stick to their catch-up and installment plans as they promised to do,” Ginsberg said.
Ginsberg says this could be the difference between collecting 30 percent and 50 percent of all delinquent property taxes. But he says it’s going to cost money. Legal actions, collection calls, mailings, as well as hundreds of new city employees and contractors.