September 16, 2011 15:37 Age: 3 yrs

Legislature pushes Philadelphia to collect on huge delinquent tax backlog

Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering legislation that would more precisely define how and when Philadelphia deals with collecting from more than 100,000 tax-delinquent properties, according to a story published Sept. 16 in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Emory Law Professor Frank S. Alexander is consulting with legislators on possible ways to make the process more efficient.

The delinquent property tax backlog is the biggest among major U.S. cities. Thus far, the backlog has cost Philadelphia $472 million in unpaid taxes, penalties and interest.

An analysis of Philadelphia’s tax-delinquent properties found that fewer than 18 percent of past-due parcel owners had been sued for collection by the city. That raises the question of whether the city is proceeding on tax claims within a year as required by law. The answer, according to the Inquirer, may depend on what proceed means, and there is no clear definition in the statute.

"Evidently there are multiple interpretations in Philadelphia of proceed," said Alexander, the Sam Nunn Professor of Law, founding director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion and director of the Project on Affordable Housing and Community Development. "With respect to a potential 'disconnect' between a statutory requirement and local government compliance with that requirement, that is not something I am in a position to assess."

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Professor Alexander’s profile



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