Council hears bill to restructure Philadelphia business taxes

A major effort to overhaul the city tax code took a small step forward Thursday as City Council members Bill Green and Maria Quiñones Sánchez introduced a bill to restructure business taxes.

Their proposal is expected to encounter vigorous debate, as Philadelphia's business community has yet to weigh in on whether it supports the bill.

Green and Quiñones Sánchez say their bill would encourage more businesses to locate in Philadelphia.

Their legislation would phase out the net-income portion of the business-privilege tax over five years from its current level of 6.45 percent.

But it also would increase the gross-receipts tax to 0.53 percent over five years. The current gross-receipts rate is 0.14 percent.

Raising the gross-receipts tax goes against conventional wisdom, which holds that taxing revenue discourages businesses - especially newer ones that are just building their sales - from locating in the city.

Green and Quiñones Sánchez say they address that concern by excluding the first $100,000 of receipts from taxes.

Philadelphia's current tax structure rewards businesses based elsewhere that sell in the city because they often don't have to pay the net-income tax, which Philadelphia businesses do, Green and Quiñones Sánchez said.

"Our overarching goal is to generate economic growth in Philadelphia," Green said. "We expect this change, which spreads the business-tax burden across a broad base at a low rate, to have a significant, positive effect on the city's economy and lead to significant job growth."

They believe their proposal also would broaden the tax base and stabilize business-tax revenues.

Also on Thursday, Council passed a bill sponsored by Councilman Bill Greenlee aimed at preventing theft of titles to people's homes.

The bill requires the city Records Department to check whether the name of a person transferring a property matches that of the current owner. If the names do not match, the bill would require the department not to record the deed and possibly refer the case to law enforcement.

The Nutter administration has opposed Greenlee's bill, arguing that it would force the city to violate state law requiring cities to record deeds immediately.


Contact staff writer Miriam Hill at 215-854-5520 or hillmb@phillynews.com.