Green Tree sues for income tax records

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Green Tree is going to court to obtain copies of the borough's quarterly earned income tax records and payments for 2012.

Without those documents, borough officials contend, they cannot verify taxpayers who are delinquent in paying their earned income tax or begin civil actions to demand any outstanding taxes.

The borough filed suit Feb. 19 against the Allegheny County South West Tax Collection Committee and Jordan Tax Service in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court in an effort to obtain the documents.

"I don't see why there's such a big dispute about why it's a problem to produce the records," Green Tree manager David Montz said. "Council tries to follow the philosophy that if we try to collect what everybody is supposed to pay, it's less of a burden to the taxpayers."

Act 32 of 2008, which divided Allegheny County into four taxing jurisdictions for the collection of earned income taxes, states that all tax records shall be the property of the political subdivisions and the tax collection district in which the taxes were collected. It also provides for examination and copying of tax records.

"We're not giving up our right to any records we're entitled to by the law. We think it's clear the records are ours," said Mr. Montz, who added that an electronic transfer should be easy to do.

Green Tree apparently is not alone.

Mary Abbott, chairwoman of the South West committee, said Tuesday that she also has received earned income tax record requests from Dormont, Baldwin Borough and Scott. Scott is considering joining in the lawsuit and plans to vote on the matter this month.

Because of the pending litigation, Mrs. Abbott declined to comment about the Green Tree situation. However, she pointed out that South West's management committee is in the process of developing a policy concerning earned income tax record inspection and/or copying that will be presented next month.

However, in a written response to a Jan. 18 letter from Mr. Montz requesting Green Tree's records, she raised concerns about disclosing confidential information and also pointed out that some employers and employees have used incorrect political subdivision information.

Because 2012 was the first year of Act 32 implementation, she suggested that patience is required.

Mr. Montz said he wants to see earned income tax information that pertains only to Green Tree.

"It's not an easy tax to collect," he said, noting that unrelated people could live at the same address.

ZIP codes are another stumbling block because they span municipal borders. The 15220 ZIP code, for example, covers Green Tree and several Pittsburgh neighborhoods.

The South West committee consists of 63 political subdivisions, which include municipalities and school districts, in an area that extends east to Baldwin Township, west to Findlay, north to Kennedy and south to Upper St. Clair. It's possible some of the concern over the earned income tax records may stem from the demise of Central Tax Bureau last year. Green Tree solicitor Peter Molinaro Jr. advised the South West committee in October that Green Tree would be proactive in obtaining complete tax records in order to protect its financial future. Mr. Montz was more blunt at Monday's council meeting. "Stay tuned to see whether we get [the requested documents] or not," he said.

neigh_west - neigh_south

Carole Gilbert Brown, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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