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How Taxpayers Can Help Themselves

Brandi J. Brice, Esq. on 3/9/2009

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Co-Chair, Government & Public Service Lawyers Committee

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            It is no secret that the City of Philadelphia is cracking down on delinquent taxpayers, and while this effort has focused on businesses, individual taxpayers have not escaped the fray.  There are, however, a few things businesses, and individuals, can do to help themselves in this climate of tax collection crack down. 

             First, maintain adequate records.  Not only is it required by law, but it will prove helpful in the event of an audit or if there is an accounting error on a tax account.  Maintaining adequate records will make it easier to determine if there is an error and if so, where the error can be found and how it can be corrected.  The Department of Revenue is inundated with requests to review accounting errors, their efforts are brought to a crawl when they have to rifle through pages of disorganized and poorly maintained records.   

             Second, file your tax returns.  It could not get any simpler than this.  When taxpayers file their returns on time, it is more likely the relevant records will be available and questions regarding the returns can be answered promptly and more accurately.  Having to file returns years after the activity occurred is burdensome for the taxpayer and the Department of Revenue.  Furthermore, it causes the taxpayer to incur the expense of hiring an accountant to go through old records and complete old returns.

             Third, if you don’t know….ask.  The Department of Revenue is located in the Municipal Services Building at 15th and JFK Boulevard.  On the 4th floor of the Municipal Services Building, the Department of Revenue accepts walk-ins.  That’s correct, any taxpayer can walk in and request an “assist.”  A Revenue Examiner with the Department of Revenue will sit down with the taxpayer and assist in completing returns or answering questions about appropriate filings.  This is another reason why it is so important to keep adequate records, it will make the assist process more productive and efficient.  Some taxpayers think it is best to continuously send correspondence to the Department of Revenue, while this is a viable option in some situations, sitting down with an Examiner and having face-to-face contact is invaluable as well.  Best of all, this service is free.  Revenue Examiners conduct the audits for the City of Philadelphia, who better to provide assistance to taxpayers about how to file City of Philadelphia tax returns and ensure the appropriate amount of tax is paid and paid on time?

             Last and most important, do not ignore bills and other correspondence relating to delinquent taxes.  No good comes from ignoring bills, especially in this economic climate.  Even if you think the bills are incorrect, do not ignore them.  The City of Philadelphia has increased its efforts to collect delinquent taxes, now is not the time to ignore bills in the hopes the delinquency will disappear or the City will forget about it.  Now is the time to respond to those bills and letters, get in touch with the City of Philadelphia and work out payment arrangements.  These are difficult economic times, that goes without saying, but the efforts to collect unpaid taxes due the City are not going to stop; if anything, they are going to become increasingly more aggressive and increasingly more efficient.  Responding to bills and letters regarding delinquent taxes can save taxpayers the expense incurred from being sued by the City of Philadelphia to collect those taxes.  Ignored lawsuits result in judgments, judgments result in execution, execution results in the taxpayer’s ability to do business being compromised. 

             In order for this City to function, everyone has to do their part.  One part is paying what you owe in taxes and paying it on time.  There are resources in this City to help taxpayers get that done, I would encourage all taxpayers in this City to use those resources.  These are just a few suggestions to help make the process easier for the taxpayer, they are by no means the answers to all tax issues.  It is time for all of us to take responsibility as taxpayers and do our part to help keep the City afloat.

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  • 5/2/2009 by Larry

    Hi, I would just like to say Thank You! for writing this article. It was very helpful for me. Its funny how I have passed by the municipal building a hundred plus times, never its just right there. Again, thank you very much! Keep up the good work.

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