West Chester >> For the past eight years, hotels in Chester County have had it good. Few paid taxes to the county’s Office of Treasury, and those that did, did so voluntarily.
“We’re starting to audit hotels,” said Patricia Maisano, recently elected Chester County treasurer. “We are letting hotels know we are here and we expect tax money to come to us.”
Collections for hunting licenses, dog licenses, pistol permits (for hunting) and small games of chance, including bingo, are also being ramped up, and a renewed effort is underway to ensure all taxes are collected. Dog license tax collections alone are already up 127 percent under Maisano’s tenure.
The county treasurer serves as the local authority, which represents Pennsylvania, in the sale of various state-controlled licenses. Chester County, for its services, receives a small percentage of the revenue.
It’s all due to the return to a full staffing complement at the Office of the Treasury, which can now focus on ensuring that revenues due the county are received and processed appropriately. Maisano said there are now 10 staff members in the Treasurer’s Office, all of whom are qualified. Before she was elected, there were only three on the staff, some of whom were temporary workers.
“The hotel tax has not been collected for eight years,” Maisano said. “I have renewed the hotel tax and also the Airbnb tax.”
Airbnb is a lodging reservation website that lets property owners list their spare room, apartment or home in thousands of cities worldwide. Airbnb has more than two million listings worldwide.
In the past eight months, Maisano instituted the Municipal Tax Collection option. The county Office of the Treasury now has expanded the ability to collect municipal taxes directly, streamlining the process and saving the taxpayer’s a fee for outside agency processing. Maisano said fixing the inefficient and expensive tax collection system across the county was her first and most prominent promise to voters during her 2017 campaign for treasurer.
There are currently 21 municipalities, covering at least 50,000 parcels of land who now take advantage of this new streamlined service. As a result, the costs associated with the collection of their municipal taxes are reduced, Maisano said. The Association of Municipalities has endorsed this option.
Those municipalities are: West Chester, Oxford, Atglen, South Coatesville, Modena, Honey Brook Borough and Honey Brook Township, West Caln, West Brandywine, West Pikeland, Valley, Charlestown, East Fallowfield, East Bradford, Willistown, Easttown, Penn, New Garden, Pocopson, Birmingham and Franklin.
Maisano said her goal is to get 70 Chester County municipalities into the Municipal Tax Collection option, because she said it could reduce their costs.
“This is money the county never had,” Maisano said. “It’s easily in the tens of thousands of dollars. When efficiency is up and taxes owed are collected, the overall burden to the public is reduced. This is like new-found money for the county.”