We appreciate the men and women who step up and fulfill the role of tax collector within our municipalities. Most of these individuals are hard-working citizens who do an outstanding job; however, we have had instances over the years in which some tax collectors have taken advantage of the current law and used it to steal money from the people they are supposed to be serving.
Some examples of this type of crime are the $1.4 million stolen in Baden Borough in Beaver County between 2007 and 2015, and $300,000 stolen from Spring Garden Township in York County between 1995 and 2009 from tax collectors.
The main issue is that the current Local Tax Collection Law does not specify how taxes are to be paid, so it is left to individual tax collectors to determine what they want written on any checks collected for the payment of taxes and what account the tax money is to be deposited. This means a tax collector can have a taxpayer write a check in only the tax collector’s name and unwittingly deposit it his or her personal bank account.
I am currently working to correct these oversights in the law. My legislation, House Bill 16, would require checks to be made payable to the name of the tax collector along with the office, title, or position and be deposited into a separate bank account only used for tax money. The practice of making checks payable to only an individual’s name would be prohibited.
By changing how checks from taxpayers are made out and ensuring it goes into the correct account, I believe this legislation will give municipalities and taxpayers an added layer of protection by ensuring their tax dollars go where they are intended.
In previous legislative sessions, I have introduced similar legislation that passed in the House of Representatives twice but did not receive movement in the Senate. This year, Rep. Kate Harper from Montgomery County, chairman of the House Local Government Committee, is actively helping advocate for passage of the bill and the committee is set to vote on the bill this month. Over in the Senate, there is a new chairman of the Senate Local Government Committee – Sen. Scott Wagner, from York County has been more receptive to addressing this issue then the previous chairman. Therefore, I am hopeful we can get this bill over the finish line this year.
Many times when we hear stories about a tax collector committing fraud, it’s the result of the tax collector depositing public money into his or her personal bank account. My legislation would create a commonsense, simple fix that will provide better protection of our tax dollars.
Representative Ryan Mackenzie
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Tricia Lehman