Read This If You Owe Money to the City

By Aaron Kase
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Apr. 19, 2010

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Philadelphia has launched www.phillytaxamnesty.com, which explains the city's "forgiveness" program that is scheduled for May 3 through June 25. The amnesty is a chance for those of you who owe the city money—and you know who you are—to make good on your debt and have half the accrued interest and all penalties forgiven.

You can fill out an application on the website, call the amnesty hotline at 1-877-645-410 or pick up the required forms at 1315 Walnut St., Suite 1300.

“My tax amnesty proposal was a way to get some much needed revenue into the city and allowing taxpayers in arrears to get current on their taxes,” said Councilwoman Joan Krajewski, who introduced the amnesty bill last fall. “My office receives so many calls from homeowners who are behind on their property taxes and the interest and penalties on these debts were overwhelming.”

The city is owed $582 million in unpaid taxes, according to Revenue Department Commissioner Keith Richardson, although the number has been reported as high as $1.2 billion in other publications. That includes wage, liquor sales, school, real estate, business-privilege taxes and much, much more.

The city hopes to net about $25 million to $30 million after spending about $12 million to run the amnesty program.

“The $25-$30 million expected is a conservative figure and we are hoping for much more revenue coming in,” Krajewski said.

And just how many tax delinquents are there in Philadelphia? About 190,000, Richardson said. Geez.

“If they don’t take part they can’t participate in the next amnesty program,” he warned, adding that he hopes the next one doesn’t happen in his lifetime. The last time Philadelphia gave a tax amnesty was 1986.

The amnesty is part of larger efforts by the city to collect on its debts. About $2.6 million of the back taxes are owed by city employees, and the City Controller started docking paychecks in January.

According to the mayor’s budget tool kit: “The City has been much more aggressive in collecting the taxes owed to it—publishing the names of delinquents, doing more audits, cross checking returns with the IRS and many other initiatives.” You can search for the names of your friends, neighbors and editors in the lists of real-estate and business-tax deadbeats at the city’s Law Department website.

Then there’s the $176 million owed in delinquent Water Department bills. That money doesn’t go into the general fund and doesn’t affect the budget or deficit, but still. Get it together, you guys.

And that’s to say nothing of the billion or so dollars owed to the courts in forfeited bail money. We don’t, of course, know the exact number because the Clerk of Quarter Sessions apparently keeps records on papyrus, which then gets shredded by a pack of wild rats for nesting material.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania is holding its own amnesty program from April 26 through June 18 offering the same deal—no penalty, half interest.

Pay up, Philly!

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