Saturday, July 26, 2014

Certainty returns to tax collection

March 16. 2013 11:37PM
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SINCE BIBLICAL times, tax collectors have endured endless disdain, so it seems appropriate to give credit where due. By all accounts, Berkheimer Associates has doggedly worked to sort out Luzerne County's earned income tax debacle, recouping money sorely needed by area school districts and municipalities.

This week, elected officials learned Berkheimer had sorted out enough of the mess to start sending $7 million to the appropriate government bodies, with about half of that staying in Luzerne County (the rest goes out of county because many people work here but live elsewhere).

The most compelling example of how important this is to area governments: Wilkes-Barre City was able to recall 11 firefighters furloughed earlier this year because of a shortage of cash.

This whole problem evolved after the state enacted the law known as Act 32, requiring each county to consolidate earned income tax collection for all municipalities under a single agency. A committee was formed, research done, bids sought and Centax/The Don Wilkinson Agency was given the job.

Centax was not up to the task. Delays in getting collected tax dollars to appropriate municipalities here and in other counties that also hired Centax caused acute cash shortages. Centax ultimately closed its doors. Enter Berkheimer.

The company waded into the morass and methodically sorted out the mess, reconciling bank accounts and sifting through tax returns that had been received by Centax but not processed. All told, Berkheimer has helped recover more than $20 million in tax money, according to Nanticoke City Manager Pamela Heard, secretary of the Luzerne County Tax Collection Committee (which, incidentally, is not part of Luzerne County government).

There is more money to be recovered and allotted, and the process hasn't exactly been flawless, but considering the complexity of the task, Berkheimer – and the court-appointed forensic accountant company Smart Divine – merit thanks for their success.

Those dollars are needed to provide essential services. Paying taxes may be onerous, but paying them and having the money disappear in a paperwork limbo is dangerous.

Berkheimer had sorted out enough of the mess to start sending $7 million to the appropriate government bodies.

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