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Philadelphia Revenue Chief Promises Firmer Hand Dealing With Tax Deadbeats

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(Philadelphia revenue commissioner Clarena Tolson.  Image from City of Phila. TV)

(Philadelphia revenue commissioner Clarena Tolson. Image from City of Phila. TV)

Mike Dunn Mike Dunn
Mike Dunn is City Hall bureau chief for KYW Newsradio 1060. He covers...
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By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The tax man cometh, unlike ever before.  That’s the message of Mayor Nutter’s new revenue commissioner, who spoke to City Council members today about new efforts to rein in tax delinquents.

Clarena Tolson, the longtime Philadelphia streets commissioner, is now the revenue commissioner.  And appearing at a City Council budget hearing this morning she vowed to rein in tax deadbeats as the city shifts to a new property tax system.

“It’s going to be a new day with regard to what the city’s going to be willing to do, and how strong our arm is going to be with regard to the collection of delinquent taxes,” she said.

Part of that effort, Tolson said, will be more quickly taking delinquents to court — or seizing their homes.

“They’re going to see our law group more quickly bringing people to sheriff’s sales and bringing them also to court,” Tolson said.  “It may only be that you’ve been delinquent a year and you may be up for sheriff’s sale. Or you may be in court with regard to general delinquencies.”

Tolson told councilmembers that, overall, Philadelphia needs to change its mindset that taxes can be avoided.

“We need to build a culture, internally and externally, that says in Philadelphia we’re proud to pay our taxes,” she said.

The new revenue chief’s comments come three weeks after Mayor Nutter hired former PGW chief Tom Knudsen to a new position as a “chief collections officer” — sort of a tax czar to oversee all collection efforts (see related story).

The issue of tax deadbeats has gained prominence in recent months given that some homeowners may see higher property taxes under the so-called “Actual Value Initiative.”

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