Tax Collection Symposium Held in Hershey

In the first Act 32 Symposium since Pennsylvania’s landmark local tax collection law went into effect, tax collection committee delegates, accountants, collectors and state officials recently gathered in Hershey, Pa., to discuss tax collection committees’ oversight skills, and focused on the needs and benefits of outside, independent audits.

Hosted by the Dauphin County Tax Collection Committee, the May 15 - 17 Symposium examined ways to build on the successes of Act 32, the law that requires uniform employer withholding of local earned income tax, and mandates independent audits of tax collectors’ financial administration and procedures.

“This event, in this forum, is very worthwhile,” said Joseph W. Lazzaro, Keystone Collections Group’s vice president and general counsel. “There hasn’t been anything like it since the early days of the transition to Act 32.”

Marita J. Kelley, program manager for Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development, explained that proposed, upcoming regulations would require all tax collectors to submit to independent Service Organization Controls (SOC-1) audits to remain compliant as tax officers in the state. The SOC-1 audits examine and test a tax collector’s operating effectiveness and safety design as well as the controls in place to protect public tax funds and ensure uniform, systematic handling of those funds under predetermined best practices. Keystone Collections Group has been certified as fully compliant under SOC-1 audit testing since the inception of Act 32.

The SOC-1 audit, according to Lazzaro, “helps to instill confidence in the tax collection system, beyond the importance of testing every other service providers’ controls. Confidence in the system is necessary from the taxing jurisdictions’ perspective and among citizens, whose tax dollars we are charged with collecting and distributing to local governments and schools.”

Much of the Symposium was devoted to improving the efficiency and transparency of tax collection. Lazzaro noted that ongoing improvement is driven by regular investment in information technology.

“At Keystone, we are focused on constant upgrades to IT systems, online work and infrastructure,” Lazzaro said. “To address the issues of greater efficiency in collection and distribution, you need better speed, response, scanning, data extraction and data verification.”

Lazzaro suggested that data verification would be greatly improved if a concerted effort were made to make it easier for businesses to comply with withholding requirements, address verification, and by ensuring that employers are keeping their employee filing records accurate.