Philly Won’t Turn Over Tax Deadbeats to Bill Collectors

City Hall prefers a lighter touch.

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

You can relax, taxpayers: City Hall probably won’t be sending bill collectors after you anytime soon.

Councilman David Oh’s proposal to crack down on tax deadbeats ran into heavy opposition Monday during a Council Finance Committee meeting. He had suggested that the city automatically turn over every outstanding tax bill older than a year to a bill collector.

KYW reports:

“We want to certainly collect the taxes from those who can pay and simply are not paying,” he said. “(The bill) simply requires that the city do it in a timely fashion, as opposed to taking no action for ten or fifteen years. By doing it that way, it becomes predictable and stable.”

But city revenue commissioner Clarena Tolson testified that the Nutter administration opposes the idea. She said they currently make decisions on a case-by-case basis whether and when to turn a past-due account over to a collection firm.

“You wouldn’t put up for sheriff’s sale somebody’s property who is injured, who has extreme circumstances, or even a modest amount of debt,” she told the lawmakers. “You wouldn’t want to sell a property that had $500 worth of delinquency on it. You (the city) have to use some judgment in regards to how you want to manage the situation.”

Other council members suggested they favor a “flexible” approach. Under that approach, Tolson said, two-thirds of outstanding tax bills do eventually go to a collector.

At last count the city was owed $512 million in delinquent taxes, Patrick Kerkstra reported in September, “figures that dwarf those in all other big cities except Detroit.”