Report: Strong City Tax Collections Continue, with Big Jump in Biz Taxes

City tax collections are up a full 20% year-over-year, according to PICA's latest monthly report, continuing the recent revenue surge that we've written about here previously. 

The year-to-date collections were also up 10%, beating the City's projections, especially for the Business Income and Receipts Tax (BIRT). BIRT increased 140% year-over-year, and up 74.8% year-to-date, reflecting a healthier job market. Real estate taxes also saw a big jump, growing by 43.5% year-over-year.

                                                                                                    (Image: PICA)

The City collected approximately $252.0 million in General Fund tax revenue in December of FY2020, compared to $208.7 million in December FY2019, an increase of approximately $43.3 million, or 20.8 percent, according to preliminary figures. Every major City tax type saw increases in December, as shown in Table 1, with the double-digit increase driven by strong increases in the City portion of the wage, earnings, and net profits ($7.4 million, or 6.2 percent), business income and receipts (“BIRT;” $18.0 million, or 140.3 percent), and realty transfer ($3.8 million, or 14.5 percent) taxes, compared to December of last year.

Additionally, the City sales tax increased by $1.1 million, the amusement tax by $1.2 million, and the beverage tax by $1.4 million—or 8.3 percent, 114.8 percent, and 25.3 percent, respectively. City tax revenue has increased in each month so far this fiscal year, with October, November, and December seeing increases of around ten percent or more compared to the same months last year. The high increases in real estate and realty transfer tax revenue continued in December, reflecting the City’s strong real estate market, and business-related tax categories have also consistently come in higher than last year on a month-over-month basis. Overall, the December increase in total collections of over $43 million is the highest increase of any month so far this fiscal year.
Last month we wrote about where all the new tax revenue has been going, and why most people haven't really seen a visible increase in city services in a way that feels commensurate with spending nine-tenths of a billion dollars more in tax revenue between 2016 and 2019. 

Mayor Kenney, to his credit, seems to have gotten the message and came out strongly behind dedicating more funding to quality-of-life issues and back-to-basics service improvements like street cleaning and repaving, along with other resident priorities that were surfaced in the Philadelphia Resident Survey.
The recent surge in tax collections stemming mainly from a growing economy, more job creation, and lower unemployment also serves as a nice reminder of why a growth agenda is so critical for Mayor Kenney's second term and the new City Council. When there is strong job growth and employment, the City raises more tax revenue on autopilot without needing to go looking for revenues through new types of taxes or rate increases on the existing taxes. And as a result, we're finally starting to get the funding levels we need to pay for important public services and priorities like schools, parks, affordable housing, and anti-poverty programs.

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