The City Comptroller encouraged the Treasury Department’s real estate division to accept online tax payments during a recent audit and urged the Pittsburgh City Council to consider implementation timing when enacting tax laws .
Allowing the city to collect tax payments online, as Allegheny County currently does, is one of the recommendations.
The audit included numerous recommendations made by Comptroller Michael Lamb for the Real Estate Division in response to “significant delays” in collecting and processing taxes in 2021.
According to the audit, the online payment method would “significantly reduce the burden” on the department by eliminating the requirement for processing checks.
They passed this legislation on December 28, 2020 and it came into force on January 1, 2021.
The comptroller is also asking the city council to consider implementation when it passes tax laws, such as the new city parks tax.
“To begin the collection of the park tax, as required by the law passed only a week earlier, an additional invoice had to be calculated, printed and sent to each property owner,” Lamb said. “It doubled the workload of the understaffed department and created confusion among taxpayers.”
In early May 2021, the department reported a backlog of six to eight weeks.
He went on to say that if consultation had taken place, the department “would have been able to shed light on potential issues and would likely have encouraged the Council to delay implementation”. Another recommendation made by the Comptroller was that residents be notified when tax management systems change, as they did in September 2021.
Auditors were told that staff had received four weeks of training on the new system with an additional two weeks if needed, according to the report. However, the audit found that with even more training on the new systems, staff would be better prepared to answer taxpayer questions and assist with system transitions.
The audit also revealed that the equipment used in 2021 was “not sufficiently checked” by the finance department. The comptroller recommended that in the event of a repurchase of “system change equipment”, the Office of Management and Budget verify that the appropriate employees with “required experience” are consulted.
“This would help in drafting the requirements of the [request for proposals] and ensure that all treatment needs are met with the new purchase,” the report states. After dealing with staffing shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the comptroller also recommended that the department create a contingency plan for any future instances where invoices “cannot be processed in a timely manner.”
Summary of news:
- Pittsburgh Comptroller Michael Lamb makes tax management recommendations to the finance department
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