Luzerne County tax collection debacle appears near an end
Jan 26, 2013 (The Citizens' Voice - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A year-long tax debacle is showing signs of wrapping up.
Money and data that the Luzerne County Tax Collection Committee was seeking are either in hand or on the way to municipalities and school districts.
Those towns and schools will soon receive about $3.5 million more in earned income tax money that they are due from the first half of 2012. The returns were delayed after the company processing them, Centax/Don Wilkinson Agency, failed to disburse money on time and went out of business.
The Luzerne County Tax Collection Committee voted Wednesday to allow Smart Devine, a company working to reconcile Centax's old accounts, to release money in an old account.
That money could be in the accounts of municipalities and school districts by the end of the month, said Pamela Heard, the tax collection committee secretary, although she cautioned that it could take longer than that. Another company, Berkehimer Associates, is in charge of actually distributing the funds.
Heard estimated that about $4 million is still due to the county. She thought that money is likely money owed from other counties.
The committee also has another thing it was desperately seeking: its records.
After Centax went out of business, a judge in Allegheny County appointed law firm Campbell and Levine to act as receiver for the company's accounts. The receiver asked the judge for permission to destroy Centax's records, and a judge ruled Jan. 18 that anyone with records held by Centax must have a chance to retrieve those records.
The county tax committee petitioned the judge to allow it to recover its data, but now, it won't need to collect the actual documents, because the receiver handed over that data electronically, Heard said.
However, municipalities and school districts that used Centax to collect other taxes might still want to collect data.
The old Centax office in Berwick will be open Monday and Tuesday and the Kingston office will be open Wednesday. Administrators at municipalities and school districts should contact the receiver, Campbell and Levine, by calling 412-261-0310 at least two business days before the open dates to access the records. The receiver will allow towns and school to copy their records but not to take records from the offices.
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