A common question among tax collectors is whether they are required to submit payment detail with their monthly reports. The short answer is “probably not.” As always, the devil is in the details.
But the manual says I have to?!?!
When I was borough secretary, I would receive “Right-to-Know” requests from data collection companies quoting the Tax Collector Manual. In particular, they quoted this paragraph from the “Reports to Taxing District” section (emphasis mine):
The monthly statement must list all taxes collected for the taxing district for the reporting period. This report must list the names of taxpayers and amount collected from each including discounts and penalties and must carry a total of all taxes collected with discounts and penalties for the reporting period.
These companies did this to avoid paying tax certification fees to the collectors. As borough secretary, the above quote made clear to me that my tax collector had to turn over this payment detail. I asked him for this information, again quoting the above paragraph. He sent it to me. I then provided it to the data company who sent me the Right-to-Know request.
When I later became a tax collector, I attended the annual PSTCA conference. I heard other tax collectors insist that they were not required to submit this payment detail. Confused, I went back to the tax collector manual for a closer look.
But the law says you don’t!!!
For proof of the above requirement, the manual cites Section 25. of the Local Tax Collection Law. Here is the second paragraph of Section 25, which contains the relevant language (emphasis mine):
The tax collector shall on or before the tenth day of each month, or more frequently if required by ordinance or resolution of the taxing district, provide a true, verified statement, in writing on a form approved by the Department of Community and Economic Development, to the secretary or clerk of the taxing district or, in the case of cities of the third class, to the director of accounts and finance for all taxes collected for such taxing district during the previous month or period, giving the names of taxables, the amount collected from each, along with discounts granted or penalties applied, if any, and the total amount of taxes received, discounts granted and penalties applied. The tax collector shall include with each statement made under this section a reconciled monthly tax collector’s report for each type of tax collected for each taxing district. The report shall be reconciled from the tax duplicates to the amount of taxes remaining to be collected. A taxing district may require the elected tax collector to provide it with additional information supplementing that set forth on the form approved by the Department of Community and Economic Development.72 P.S. 5511.25; Local Tax Collection Law Section 25.
That’s a lot of extra legalese, so I’ll summarize the key points:
- The collector must submit the monthly DCED report by the 10th of each month
- The taxing district may require it more often, but only if requested by ordinance or resolution
- The report must give the names of taxables and the amount collected from each
- The taxing district may require additional information
Careful readers will notice that the tax collection manual’s “paraphrasing” of the law leads to getting the intent wrong. The manual states, “[t]his report must list the names of taxpayers and amount collected from each…” The law states the collector must provide a statement, “giving the names of taxables, the amount collected from each…”
The manual lifts the language of the law nearly verbatim, but changes “taxables” to “taxpayers.” In the law, “taxables” refers to the types of taxes that districts levy. For example, the general “County Tax” versus a county “Debt Tax.” The law requires that these amounts be reported separately, including any discounts or penalties.
So Why Is the Short Answer, “Probably Not”?
Despite what the manual says, nothing in the law requires every tax collector to report tax payment detail. Nevertheless, the law does allow for taxing districts to require “additional information” from the tax collector.
So, if your taxing district requires you to submit payment detail with your reports, then you must do that.
Moral of the Story
The Tax Collector’s Manual is a guide. It is not infallible. The law always takes precedence.