Nutter renews efforts to collect overdue taxes

Posted: September 22, 2010

Continuing efforts to rein in the city's deadbeat taxpayers, Mayor Nutter stood outside a Northeast Philadelphia podiatry practice Tuesday and demanded that the owner cough up an estimated $114,000 in back taxes and penalties.

"This is not a threat. It's very real, and I'm not playing," Nutter said of his administration's commitment to collecting overdue taxes.

During a tax-amnesty program that ended in June, the city collected $40 million, with an additional $20 million going to the Philadelphia School District. Now, Nutter plans to go after the remaining businesses that still owe taxes.

"We cannot afford to underwrite or subsidize this business behind me," Nutter said. The Bustleton Podiatry Association, at 7936 Bustleton Ave., has not paid taxes since 1996, according to the Mayor's Office. Its overdue payments include wage and trust-fund taxes as well as interest and penalties.

The news conference originally had been scheduled for last Thursday, but the Mayor's Office canceled it to give Bustleton Podiatry more time to arrange a payment agreement with the city's Law Department. With no agreement in hand, Nutter announced Tuesday that an auction of furniture and other items would take place at the practice Sept. 30.

The mayor did not provide a specific reason for choosing Bustleton Podiatry. City Revenue Commissioner Keith Richardson said the business was not the largest delinquent in the city. Richardson, who was at the news conference, said that the mayor would hold similar media events "quite often," but that detailed plans had not yet been made.

"We were particularly surprised that this business was targeted because we have come forward and we have told the city that we would cooperate with them to resolve this," said Gary Krimstock, a lawyer for Bustleton Podiatry.

Both Nutter and Richardson emphasized that the amount of the practice's overdue taxes could support various city services, such as hiring two new firefighter or police recruits, or paying the salaries of four sanitation workers or library assistants.

"They've enjoyed a full complement of services everyday and have refused to pay for them," Nutter said.

Krimstock said the owner of Bustleton Podiatry "suffered some financial hardships in his business and incurred these business debts."

Bustleton Podiatry was not in a position to reach an agreement with the Law Department because the practice's accountant was continuing to review tax returns, Krimstock explained. He said he believed the city's $114,000 figure might not be correct.

"We were very much working with the city to have an agreement, and we were not told that there was a deadline, 72 hours apparently. We were not told that we needed to have the agreement in writing," he said.

Krimstock said he had been communicating with the Law Department regularly before he was aware of the news conference. He said the practice found out about the original conference that was postponed when a notice was delivered last Thursday morning.

"These individuals did not take this seriously until today," mayoral spokeswoman Katie Martin said before Tuesday's news conference.

Richardson said the city would launch a website in three weeks with the names of tax delinquents and instructions on how to pay overdue taxes. The list will include private residents as well as businesses that owe real estate, water, business, and sewer taxes. Richardson said he hoped it would be as successful as a previous city website that listed delinquent businesses and brought in about $3 million to $4 million in late tax payments.


Contact staff writer Liz Gormisky at 215-854-2917 or egormisky@phillynews.com.

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