Philadelphia has collected $40 million through a tax-amnesty program, the start of what Mayor Michael Nutter calls a new era of aggressive tax collections as the city attempts to recoup an additional $900 million in unpaid taxes, interest and penalties.
City officials had hoped the amnesty program would bring in $30 million, an amount included in budget projections for 2010. Nutter said the additional $10 million would not alter plans for proposed budget cuts, because the weak economy has reduced tax revenues.
Nutter previously announced $20 million in cuts to police, fire, libraries and other departments after City Council passed its $3.9 billion budget, and he has asked departments to submit additional cuts of 2% to 4% in their 2010-11 budgets.
More than 27,000 delinquent taxpayers participated in the 54-day amnesty program, which ended June 25. The program offered residents and businesses the chance to eliminate penalties and half of interest owed if they paid their overdue bills. news conference, Nutter said the city was done playing nice with those who failed to pay on time.
At a news conference, Nutter said the city was done playing nice with delinquent taxpayers.
"You owe it, and we plan to collect it," he said. "Cases are already being turned over for potential prosecution. They will face swift legal action, as well as stiff fines and penalties."
Nutter said officials from his administration already had discussed the plans with District Attorney Seth Williams, who has agreed to go after some delinquents. Calls to the District Attorney's Office were not returned.
About 90% of taxpayers pay on time, Nutter said.
City efforts to improve collections will include:
Calling delinquents as soon as a payment is missed and sending accounts to collection agencies more quickly. Calls will be made by Revenue Department employees.
Continuing to publish the names of the biggest debtors and targeting collections from them.
Continuing to make sure city employees have paid their taxes by deducting overdue amounts from paychecks if necessary. New hires and appointees to city boards and commissions also must have their taxes paid.
Increasing the number of properties sent to sheriff's sale from 200 to 600 per month.
Revoking businesses licenses for companies that do not pay taxes.
The city enacted payroll deductions after an Inquirer report last summer that detailed more than 1,000 property-tax delinquencies among city employees and their spouses.
City Controller Alan Butkovitz had believed the total collected by the city and the School District would be much smaller - about $30 million. Despite the much higher figure, he said he still thought the city could have collected more if it had advertised the amnesty more broadly.