City Council earlier today held the first of two days worth of hearings on tax delinquency in Philadelphia, spending more than an hour asking questions of city Revenue Commissioner Keith J. Richardson.

The six freshmen members of Council introduced six separate resolutions earlier this year calling for hearings into various aspects of the city's efforts to collect taxes from delinquent property owners, especially in light of the Actual Value Initiative (AVI), Mayor Nutter's property tax reform effort slated to come online later this year.

Richardson began with lengthy testimony, lauding the administration's tax amnesty program and other measure taken in the last two years to step up tax collections.

"We intend on maintaining this proactive approach to the collection of past due and newly delinquent accounts before they become chronic delinquencies," he said.

Council members sought information on a number of issues – how long can a property be delinquent before going into foreclosure, should liens be placed on property delinquent taxpayers own outside the city, how and when is debt written off.

Revenue's chief lawyer, Frances Beckley, said foreclosures and sheriff's sales are complicated because properties must have clear titles, and the process typically costs $800-$1,000 – and then there has to be a buyer.

"You have to remember that if you put a property up for sheriff's sale and there isn't a buyer, you haven't accomplished anything but you've spent a lot of money," she said.

The hearing continues tomorrow at 1 p.m.

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