The city of Philadelphia is considering new and better ways to collect back taxes.
Revenue Commissioner Keith Richardson says he is working to make sure Philadelphia gets every dollar it’s owed in taxes. But he warned council members that one collection method will have the phones ringing in council offices.
“I’m looking at a company that may help us to start taking people’s cars,” Richardson said at a hearing Tuesday. “But then it’s going to be a problem … when I start taking cars for people’s delinquent real estate taxes, they are going to start calling you guys saying my car was taken or it’s stolen.”
Councilman Mark Squilla says his constituents can’t see why their taxes are going up when there are so many delinquent properties. He wants the Nutter administration to set a goal for collecting from deadbeats.
“What we’re interested in is coming up with some kind of figure that we are going to put into the budget to show that we are serious about collecting back taxes,” Squilla said.
City officials say they are doing better at collecting taxes.
To help collect some of the more than half-billion dollars in outstanding taxes in the city, Richardson said city workers have notified delinquents with a phone call before their accounts were turned over to collection agencies.
“As a result of these measures, the taxpayers’ compliance improved and the numbers of properties delinquent for the first time that were referred to co-counsel declined 40 percent from 20,000 in 2011 to 11,300 in 2012,” Richardson.
Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez says she’s concerned that more than 20,000 properties are being written off altogether because there is no one who wants to buy them at sheriff sale.
“Unfortunately the policy where they are going to sell what’s valuable leads to the blight that we see in the neighborhoods because then some of us get swamps and swamps of land,” she said. “The folks who are collecting the revenue are not thinking about the community impacts.”
And those impacts, she said, are plummeting property values and lighted neighborhoods.