Philadelphia collected more than $45 million in back property taxes during the first four months of the year and cut the number of tax delinquent properties by an estimated 30,000, 25% down from the previous year, records show.
The city had an estimated 126,000 tax delinquent properties at the end of 2013 and was owed more than $575 million in back taxes. The largest tax debts cleared this year include $8 million collected through the settlement of the former Foxwoods casino site and just more than $900,000 paid by Penn Wynn Inc., owner of a large apartment complex, which owed four years' worth of back taxes, according to records obtained by the Philadelphia Daily News.
The city stepped up collection efforts by starting to revoke commercial licenses for delinquent taxpayers, pushing more properties to sheriff's sale and using third-party collection agencies.
Clarena Tolson, the city's revenue commissioner, said the $45 million collected in the first four months of the year represents about half of the $91 million in delinquent property-tax revenue collected in all of 2013. Penn Wynn paid after the city threatened to sell the property at sheriff's sale to collect the debt, Tolson added.
Part of the revenue department's more aggressive collection efforts involve sending out bills for 2014 taxes that were unpaid by the end of March. Any account with an unpaid balance from 2013 had a lien placed on it and was sent to a collection agency, Tolson said.
The city also can have delinquent properties placed with a third party through a process known as sequestration.
The third party then collects rents and turns them over to the city until the tax debt is paid in full. Since that program started last October, the city has collected $4.9 million from about 350 accounts, according to city officials.