During the same set of meetings in which members of municipal and state officials agreed on legislation crucial to the planned citywide property tax overhaul, they also pledged to work together on a comprehensive strategy targeting property tax delinquents, who combined owe the city more than $500 million.
"What they said was ... 'We're going to sit down with you the first of the year to start crafting legislation that gives Philadelphia more options [when it comes to enforcing delinquent tax collection],'" Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. said on Thursday of the collaboration. He said that, in light of the tax increase that is expected to accompany next year's switch to the Actual Value Initiative of property tax assessment, the city wants those who don't pay to shoulder their fair share of the burden. "We are not going to with our one hand raising taxes not spend two hands trying to collect taxes, too."
Several components of the planned crackdown were introduced on Mayor Michael Nutter administration's behalf at City Council on Thursday, including legislation reducing the interest rate for tax delinquent property owners and increasing the amount of their payments that go toward the principle of their debt, rather than to interest and fees. "One of the things that we've learned to do is to make it more palatable for people to pay," Jones said. "So these are measures sponsored by the mayor to help make that more amenable. At the end of the day, we're going to give them every opportunity to pay and then we're going to come down hard on them."
Most importantly, the legislation will allow the city to enforce the collection of back taxes in any district in the country in which the scofflaw has assets. "One of the things that the state is allowing us to do is take measures a little more into our own hands," Jones said. "We have limitations. If a person owns multiple properties, we can't put a lien on all of them. If he has a rundown property, we can put a lien on that. So he says, 'Oh well, maybe I'll lose it.' ... Now, the one that's in their hometown, the one that's around downtown, we're going to get, too."