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Who Cashes Your Property Tax Check?

If you have ever paid your property taxes and wondered why you were making the check out to the treasurer’s name rather than to the office, you are not alone.  State Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R-Berks) has introduced a bill that would make such a practice illegal.

“This is a very bad practice, it’s a loophole that is ripe for abuse and fraud,” Mackenzie said. “Individuals collect taxes in their name and instead of depositing it into the tax account it makes its way into their individual account.”

House Bill 160 would force tax collectors at all levels to use the name of the office or the taxing body rather than the person who holds the office.

Mackenzie says the measure was prompted by a few general municipal fraud cases in the state and a case in York County where a tax collector diverted $300,000 intended for tax payments into his own account.

The bill has already passed the House and is now in the Senate Local Government Committee.

The bill takes on another issue that Mackenzie says has been used by unscrupulous tax collector to line their coffers.  Under current law there is no mechanism to automatically force the return of an overpayment to the property owner. 

“There are two common types of instance where that occurs,” Mackenzie said. “The first is when a mortgage company and an individual both end up making payments on a property.” 

The second most common instance comes when a property is sold midyear and there is confusion over how much each owner is to pay.

Mackenzie said the bill was subject to long debate as other lawmakers tried to attach amendments to deal with other tax issues but he and his fellow sponsors worked hard to keep the bill clean. He says he thinks it will receive approval in the upper chamber.

The Erie, PA native has been a fellow in the WESA news department since May 2013. Having earned a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Duquesne University, he is now pursuing an M.A. in multi-media management. Michael describes his career aspiration as "I want to do it all in journalism."