City to directly collect business taxes

Among the changes at Williamsport City Hall is the tax collector and treasurer’s office handling all of the city’s tax loads.

For years, collection of certain taxes was done by an outside agency, Berkheimer, said Nicholas Grimes, city tax collector and treasurer.

Grimes said he’s changed that and made other alterations to create a more “personable” and business-and-user-friendly atmosphere.

In addition to now collecting local services, business privilege and mercantile taxes, Grimes said the office was able to reach an agreement with a city-based law firm.

“For a more personal touch,” he reiterated.

This year, after Grimes sought to adjust the late fees to be more advantageous to delinquent taxpayers, City Council approved the teasurer’s concept.

“We are always trying to improve our customer service,” Grimes said.

The office personnel will be collecting the tax bills when they are late or delinquent or go unpaid, he said.

Additionally, the city has an agreement with Murphy, Butterfield and Holland Law.

“That is good if there are legal services needed by the treasurer office,” said Council President Randall J. Allison.

“We are fortunate to have law firms, especially our solicitors’ firms and the tax firm specialists,” Allison said.

The “use” agreement means the city does not pay a retainer fee, Allison said.

“If we don’t use the firm, it doesn’t get paid,” he said.

City Councilman Adam Yoder, who comes to council with a background in analytical thinking, engineering and business management, said he was for it.

“The net benefit is better customer service,” Yoder said.

In addition, Yoder said, the fee schedule is a little more cost advantageous for taxpayer.

As the retained tax collection attorney Fred Holland offers the expertise in tax matters, and Holland has been appointed as city tax hearing officer.

“He can do any litigation work, such as preparing certified letters or going to magistrate court when it goes beyond our level of getting the collection,” Grimes said. “Attorney Holland understands case law and tax law,” he said.

Should there be an assessment appeal it would go to the hearing. Holland has experience as a solicitor for school districts, so he will represent the city.

An alternate attorney, Jennifer Brown, with as much experience, also has been retained should Holland have a conflict of interest or be unable to attend a hearing, Grimes said.

While the lawyers are on call to represent the city, such tax appeals and asking for hearings doesn’t happen much, according to city records on that kind of hearing.

In the last four years one appeal was scheduled and it was settled prior to the hearing, Grimes said.


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