Tax liens in the commonwealth total more than $1 billion, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue.
A new law aims to address that issue by allowing municipalities throughout the commonwealth to place a lien on other properties owned by a delinquent property taxpayer.
“Our hope is that … individuals will know that they just cannot be delinquent in paying their property taxes when so many Pennsylvanians do the right thing, they pay the taxes that helps keep the economy going, helps to keep the commonwealth afloat and we think everyone should be responsible and do the right thing,” said State Rep. Cherelle Parker (D-Philadelphia).
Parker, the bill’s primary sponsor, said the law targets speculators and investors who own multiple properties but refuse to pay taxes on some of them.
“We’re not talking about people who, you know it’s their primary residence, and something happened and their family, and you know, they’re having a tough time financially, those are not the people this bill in fact are targeting,” Parker said.
Parker said she was surprised by a study from the PEW Research Center that said the majority of tax delinquent properties in Philadelphia were owned by people who live in other counties.
“The city needed an additional tool because they could obviously go through the court process,” Parker said. “But that process is a drain on the resources, the very limited resources during these tough economic times for municipalities and so this sort of streamlined the process.”
She initially thought delinquent property taxpayers were only a big issue in Philadelphia until she talked to her colleagues throughout the commonwealth.
Parker said she hopes municipalities across Pennsylvania will use the law as a tool to decrease the amount money owed to them.
“It is what keeps government functioning and much needed services that during these tough physical times people need, the quality of life,” Parker said. “And our neighborhoods depend on those dollars, so it’s an extremely important tool for municipalities across the commonwealth.”