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Butkovitz: Suburban realtors skipping city taxes

A review by the city controller found that many realtors don’t have a business license or a tax account.

City Controller Alan Butkovitz. ( CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer )
City Controller Alan Butkovitz. ( CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer )Read more

IF YOU ARE a suburban real-estate agent doing tax-free business in Philadelphia, City Controller Alan Butkovitz is onto you.

So pay up, buddy . . . or not. Apparently, the city's enforcement is kind of shabby.

Butkovitz yesterday released a random review of suburban real- estate agents that found more than half didn't have a city business license or tax account.

The noncompliant agents from Bucks, Montgomery and Delaware counties cost the city an estimated $380,000 in business taxes between 2010 and 2014, the review found.

"Currently, there is no effective enforcement mechanism to ensure the real-estate industry complies with Philadelphia's license and tax regulations," Butkovitz said in a statement.

The review was requested by Councilman Ed Neilson, who wanted to know if real-estate brokers and agents were paying their fair share.

"The School District of Philadelphia needs every dollar we as city officials can find," Neilson said in a statement. "Given the findings of the random review of Realtor activities in the city, which clearly show that the city is failing to collect wage and business privilege taxes, we are likely losing millions in taxes."

About 40 percent of the agents who responded to the review said they weren't even aware that they needed a business license and tax account. Many said they didn't know where to get the license or which tax forms to file.

"The Revenue and Licenses & Inspections departments need to develop and implement a more vibrant and proactive outreach effort toward the real-estate industry," Butkovitz said. "Industry groups should be enlisted to help disseminate city regulations and help increase compliance amongst its members."

The review has been submitted to the city's Department of Revenue.