Friday, March 6, 2015

Tax amnesty update: Something old, something new

We wrote on Tuesday about some of the problems plaguing the state tax amnesty in its first day, namely a scary advertising campaign and a communication system that wasn't working. Well, things were still pretty rough on day two, according to the Inquirer:

Tax amnesty update: Something old, something new

Ok, the Department of Revenue´s computers probably aren´t this old.
Ok, the Department of Revenue's computers probably aren't this old.

We wrote on Tuesday about some of the problems plaguing the state tax amnesty in its first day, namely a scary advertising campaign and a communication system that wasn't working. Well, things were still pretty rough on day two, according to the Inquirer:

The phone lines were perpetually jammed. E-mails were being bounced back. And tax notices were being sent to people who were already paid up, or who no longer can because they're dead.

To be fair, it's a lot easier to focus on the parts that aren't working, and not the parts that are:

The state has received more than 2,700 applications for $2.1 million in back taxes and interest, [Department of Revenue representative Stephanie] Weyant said. A further 1,200 applications for $2.3 million are being completed, she added.

Not bad for the first couple days of a 54-day program.

But what about the people who can't get through? Weyant says be patient, the computer sytem the Department of Revenue uses is from the 1970s.

Wait. Really? Should it be surprising that a computer system over 30 years old might have some issues, especially with the increase in usage that comes with the amnesty?

And there's more. Philadelphia lawyer Kelly Erb says her firm received a notice because they missed filing a quarterly form in 2004. She sums up her frustration with the system:

"I'm pro-amnesty generally; I think it's a great thing," said Erb, "but when you start dragging in people who aren't the problem, you start having chaos."

Not only are people who don't owe wasting their time trying to find out what's going on, but they're clogging the system and making it harder for people do owe to settle with the state.

There are still over eight weeks left in the amnesty, and once the kinks get worked, this has the potential to get some much-needed revenue into state coffers. Maybe some of the money will get spent on new computers.

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Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

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