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Tax collection and foreclosure bill amended, headed for vote

A bill overhauling the way the city collects delinquent property taxes was amended on the floor of City Council Thursday, and could come up for a vote as early as next week.*

The bill, co-sponsored by Councilmembers Bill Green and María Quiñones-Sánchez, requires the city to offer income-based payment plans to delinquent taxpayers and establishes a timeline for foreclosing on tax-delinquent properties.

It was first introduced more than a year ago, and has been the subject of frequent meetings between the Councilmembers’ offices, the Nutter Administration, Community Legal Services, and others. The amendments added to the bill on Thursday seem to be mostly legalistic; Councilman Green said the substance of the bill has not changed since Council’s Rules Committee approved it several months ago.

The bill, said Councilwoman Sánchez prior to the vote to adopt the amendments, “begins to provide the city with real tools for the discussion we’ve been having around AVI and property tax collections.”

She continued, “We believe that [with] this bill, and through this amendment, we will have one of the best tax collection strategies and tools that this city has ever seen. It protects low-income property owners in a very meaningful way by allowing them to have a predictable process by which they can enter into a payment plan, and an agreement so that we can collect those dollars. That carrot is important, but what’s most important in this bill is the stick. The stick that allows the city to go after, in a very aggressive way, investors who believe they can sit on delinquent properties until they’re ready to develop.”  

Sánchez also publicly thanked her legislative aide Jennifer Kates and former Bill Green aide Sophie Bryan for their work on the bill, which was introduced in the wake of the first installment of a PlanPhilly/Inquirer series on the city’s abysmal delinquent-tax collection record.

“The substance of the bill is exactly the same,” said Councilman Green. “You will be able to get a pre-printed, pre-determined form for a repayment plan for your taxes based entirely on your ability to pay. For those with the lowest income, it will be 5 to 7 percent of their monthly income. That is all they have to pay and as long as they pay that and are in compliance, penalty and interest will be waived when the entire amount due is paid back. You must, in order to be in this plan, stay current on all of your taxes going forward. So it solves the problem going backwards—puts you back on the rolls, makes you legal—and gives you an incentive to pay each year’s taxes on a go-forward basis, and María and I believe it will truly help with the delinquency problem in Philadelphia.” 

*Note: The earliest the bill could receive a full vote before City Council is Thursday, June 6th. Council does not hold its regular meetings during weeks in which there is a holiday.

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