In a press conference Monday afternoon, Mayor Michael Nutter announced a new $40 million strategy for collecting delinquent taxes. The strategy, which Nutter called “aggressive and multi-faceted,” includes $25 million in capital costs and $15 million operating costs over the next five years.
The central components of the plan, according to Nutter, include:
· Overhauling the city’s technology system for identifying and contacting tax delinquents,
· Expanding outreach to those delinquents,
· Working with private collection agencies to improve tax enforcement,
· “Building partnerships with sister agencies,”
· And building capacity and increasing efficiency in the city’s collection efforts.
Nutter said the plan would create a new IT system for the Revenue Department and establish a new call center. Fifty-five employees would be hired, Nutter said. He expects the strategy to net an estimated $260 million “over the next five to six years.”
The announcement comes after more than a year of ongoing coverage of the tax delinquency dilemma by PlanPhilly and The Philadelphia Inquirer, and less than two weeks before the city is scheduled to mail out new property assessments to homeowners. Under the Mayor’s Actual Value Initiative, some property assessments are expected to rise sharply while others will drop, making up for inaccuracies in current assessments.
The strategy announced Monday by Nutter deals with more than just property taxes, however.
“The good news is that 91 percent of taxes are paid within the year that they are due,” Nutter said. “But there are those individuals who don’t pay their taxes. … We want to make a significant distinction between those who want to pay and can’t because of various financial circumstances … and those who choose not to pay, who, naturally, are your garden variety tax deadbeats.”
Nutter said the strategy would help the city target “egregious” tax delinquents, those involved in the “underground economy,” and individuals who pay Federal and State taxes but choose not to pay their local taxes. The target collection rate, he said in response to a reporter’s question, is “everything.”
The Mayor said his Administration is sensitive to the financial difficulties of some tax-delinquent homeowners, and that it will work to first go after delinquents who can afford to pay, but he offered no specifics on how to increase the number of homeowners entering into payment plans, beyond expanding “outreach and educational” efforts.
“You can be house-rich and cash-poor,” Nutter said. “I get that. But pay something.”
Nutter ended the conference with another expression of the demure profanity that has peppered some of his public statements over the last year or so.
“There are some other trifling, racketing people around here who can actually pay, who don’t pay,” Nutter said, “and we’re going to chase their little asses down as hard as possible.”
Jared Brey writes about development, zoning policy, and city government for PlanPhilly.com. He wasn't interested in being a reporter until halfway through a master's program in journalism at Temple University that he intended to parlay into an academic career. His work has appeared in the Philadelphia City Paper, Philadelphia Business Journal, Daily News, and Metropolis.