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City of Philadelphia

Frequently Asked Questions

Water Bills

How is the stormwater charge calculated?

Please visit PWD's stormwater billing page

Why am I being charged if my pipes leak/break?

The water customer is responsible for any breaks/leaks from the curb to the house including any water that passes through and is registered by the meter.

My spouse/family member passed away and the bill was in their name, how do I get the bill in my name?

Come into one of our offices with proper I.D., the death certificate of the deceased family member and any other utility bills in your name.

Why do I have a service charge if I have no water usage?

Your service charge is for the cost of maintaining the system including cleaning the pollutants from our drinking water. If you have active water service but the property is vacant you will receive a service charge.

When was my last payment posted?

Your monthly bill will show the last payment posted and the date of that payment under the section labeled "Payment/Adjustments".

How do I get copies of old bills?

Contact our Customer Service Department at 215-686-6880 or visit us in the Municipal Services Building Concourse Level at 1401 John F Kennedy Blvd.

Can I get the water bill in my name if I am a tenant?

You must provide a valid lease which states you are responsible for the water bill, the landlord/owners mailing address, two forms of identification, current utility bills in your name and a meter reading.

I am confused, there is the Water Department and a separate Water Revenue Bureau?

According to the Philadelphia Charter , the billing and collection functions for water /sewer payments shall be a separate entity. The Philadelphia Water Department provides the water and services including all maintenance functions. The Water Revenue Bureau will provide all billing and collection functions.

What costs are recovered by the water and sanitary sewer monthly service charges?

The water and sanitary sewer monthly service charges are based on the size of the water meter. The service charges are the cost of basic service, which includes metering, billing and collecting revenues, and portions of industrial waste monitoring and sanitary infiltration/inflow costs.

When is a water bill considered delinquent?

A water/sewer account becomes delinquent when the customer owes $75.00 or greater and are two billing cycles delinquent.

Do nonprofits get discounts on their water bills?

Nonprofits including universities, hospitals, charities and boards of education need to contact the Water Department to apply for a charitable organization discount. Qualifying nonprofits may receive a 25% discount on their water bills.

How is my monthly payment applied to my bill?

Your monthly payment is applied against the following charges (when applicable) in the following order:

1) Fees related to bad checks, meter tamper charges, and liens for example
2) Penalties and interest
3) Stormwater charges
4) Water and sewer service and usage charges
    • Sewer service
    • Water service
    • Sewer usage
    • Water usage
5) Payments against payment agreements

General Tax

I want to start a business in Philadelphia. Which taxes do I have to pay and how do I register?

Businesses must first register for their Commercial Acitivity License and their Business Income and receipts Tax. In general, corporations are liable for the business income and receipts tax. Individuals and partnerships are liable for Business Income and Receipts and Net Profit taxes. All entities operating in Philadelphia and having employees must withhold and remit wage tax on the compensation paid to employees. If the business is located in Philadelphia, it would also be liable for Business Use & Occupancy Tax. There are other taxes that may be applicable based on your business type. For more complete information please contact Philadelphia’s Office of Business Services.

Why did I receive a tax bill or being sued if I no longer operate a business in the city?

Because of unpaid previous balances or unfiled tax returns from the time you were in business. You must file a change form to close the account and file all missing returns for years you were in active business.  Follow the instructions and contact information on the letter received to resolve your tax issues.

What taxes must I pay if I am a freelancer or indpendent contractor?

If you received payment for work performed in Philadelphia and the payer (employer/client) does not withhold Philadelphia Wage Tax on your behalf for that work because you are treated as an "independent contractor" (even if you don't have employees), you are treated as a business by the City of Philadelphia. You must apply for a Commercial Activity License to work in the City. The Department of Licenses adn Inspections issues the Commercial Activity License. In addition to the license, you are liable to the City for paying tax on your earnings, since no Wage Tax is being withheld. You are also likely to owe Net Profits and Business Income and Receipts Taxes.

Can I use a tax preparation software from a vendor, such as Turbo Tax, to prepare my tax returns?

Only if the company's software has been approved by us. Click here for a list of approved software vendors.

Does Philadelphia have an income tax?

No, but the City imposes other taxes including taxes on wages and business income that you may be subject to.

I can’t get through on the phone when I call

Try calling during non-peak periods, before 10 a.m. or after 3 p.m. Monday mornings in tax season are an especially busy time. You can also e-mail your request to revenue@phila.gov.  We ask for your patience as this is a very busy time of year.  Try to use our website as much as possible for resolution to your questions. You can view and pay your outstanding tax balances and file returns on our website.

Can I send one check for the Net Profits Tax, Business Income and Receipts Tax and estimated Net Profits Tax returns?

Yes. Write your account number on the check and include the appropriate coupon(s) in the postage paid envelope provided in your tax package.

My business closed last year but you still sent me a tax booklet. Why?

Use a Change Form to notify us that you are no longer in business. Corporate entities may be entitled to a partial refund of the prior year Business Income and Receipts Tax paid.  You must file any missing returns and pay any outstanding tax due for years you were in business.

How do I register as a disregarded entity?

Indicate so on line 16 D of the taxpayer application.

Can I look at my tax account on-line?

You can look at open balances and filed returns through the website.

Why are there processing fees for paying on-line?

These fees are charged by the Official Payment Corporation for the processing of on-line payments.

Does Philadelphia have any reciprocal agreements with any other states or other jurisdictions within Pennsylvania relating to the remittance of Philadelphia Wage Tax?

Residents of Philadelphia are required to pay Philadelphia Wage Tax on all wages. Philadelphia residents employed in other localities in Pennsylvania should instruct their employers not to withhold other local income taxes from their paychecks. Non-residents of Philadelphia residing in Pennsylvania and employed within the City of Philadelphia must pay the Philadelphia Wage Tax on all compensation earned in Philadelphia. Non-resident compensation not subject to Philadelphia Wage Tax (due to services rendered outside of Philadelphia) may be subject to taxation in the employee's home jurisdiction. The City of Philadelphia is not a party to any reciprocal tax agreements with any other State or political subdivision thereof. Non-residents of Pennsylvania cannot claim a tax credit against Philadelphia Wage Tax for income taxes paid to any other State or political subdivision thereof. Residents of Philadelphia employed outside of Pennsylvania may be required to file and pay a local income tax in that jurisdiction in addition to Philadelphia Wage Tax.

Does Act 166 affect Philadelphia Wage Tax or Net Profits Tax?

No, please contact the Commonwealth for further information. 

If I registered for the wage tax account but have no employees at the time, do I still need to file?

Yes, file a $0, no tax liability, return. This can be done on-line.

I lost the Wage Tax coupon book used to remit wage tax on my employees. How do I get another book?

Call 215-686-6600 to request another coupon book. Please have the account number and identify which tax is needed when you call. You can also e-mail this request to revenue@phila.gov.

Do I need to send the Philadelphia Department of Revenue a listing of 1099's I have distributed and, if so, is there a transmittal form required?

1099’s must be submitted electronically via our secure FTP site. The City will no longer accept CDs and other electronic media through the mail. The link to the secure 
FTP is: https://ework.phila.gov/revenue/.  

How much does my estimated BIRT payment for next year need to be so I don’t incur any penalties?

To not have penalties applied,the estimate should be equal to the base tax with the same due date. It should at least equal what you owe for the current year.

How many years can I claim for my loss on my BIRT?

Three

Does Philadelphia allow as a deduction the special first year depreciation allowance on certain property acquired after September 10, 2001 and before September 11, 2004?

No. This special allowance depreciation is not allowed as a deduction in determining taxable net income for Business Income and Receipts Tax and Net Profits Tax purposes.

Why I am receiving a non-filer notice if my business is closed?

A change form indicating that your business has ceased operations has not been received.  Please file returns for returns for your last year of business and send in a change form.

My business has multiple locations, do I need to file a return for each location?

Philadelphia filings need to be made in the same manner as those that are filed to the IRS. In general, all locations under the same EIN can be on the same return, but again, refer to the IRS filing guidelines.

Does Philadelphia have combined reporting with Pennsylvania?

No

Can I get help with my tax return?

No, you need to obtain your own preparer. 

What is the Business Privilege Tax?

The Business Privilege Tax is the former name of the Business Income and Receipts Tax. There are no other differences.

If I have incurred an overall loss and no tax is due, must I file a Net Profits Tax return?

Yes. A return must be filed even if an overall loss is incurred. If no return is filed, non-filer penalties could be imposed.

Does the Net Profits Tax take the place of the net income portion of the Business Income and Receipts tax?

No.  Unincorporated business are required to file and pay both the Net Profits Tax (NPT) and the Business Income and Receipts Tax (BIRT).  There is a credit that can be taken on the NPT based on the amount of tax owed from your BIRT.

I just received a letter concerning missing 1099s but I already supplied them, who do I notify of this?

Send in requested documentation with the notice. W-2s are for earnings tax. 1099s are for business income and receipts tax and for net profits taxes.

Why hasn't the check I sent in to pay my taxes/water been processed yet?

  • During late winter/early Revenue experiences very high mail and check volume to pay water bills, real estate taxes, and business taxes.  It may take two weeks for a check to process. 
  • It may take a few weeks for a check to process if you did not include your payment coupon and did not write the account/property on the check.  Payment coupons allow for automatic check processing. Lack of payment coupons requires manual account and check verification.
  • If it has been more than a couple of weeks and your check still has not cleared, please call us.

How do I register my entity as a nonprofit?

A copy of the 501(c)3 is needed to register an entity as a nonprofit. 

Real Estate Tax

How do I take a property to Sheriff Sale?

Private citizens can take a property to Sheriff Sale.  There is $1,500 fee that will go towards the bid at Sheriff Sale.  Visit our Real Estate Tax page to learn more.

Why does the city have such a large real estate tax delinquency balance?

Many properties have been abandoned due to death or financial hardship. Others are owned by those unable or unwilling to pay.  Revenue is working with collection agencies and co-counsel to collect on back taxes owed and to take properties to Sheriff Sale. The number of properties going to Sheriff Sale have increased throughout 2012 and will continue to increase in 2013. Revenue is also going to upgrade its technology and utilize analytics for smarter and more strategic collections.

My spouse/family member passed away and the bill was in their name, how do I get the bill in my name?

You must file a new deed with the Department of Records.

I think my property is not valued correctly, who do I contact?

The Office of Property Assessment (OPA) is responsible for assessing property values. If you want to learn more about your new assessment due to the Actual Value Initiative please visit OPA's website.  Otherwise, all appeals go through the Bureau of Revision of Taxes (BRT). There are specific timelines for the appeal process, don't delay.

How do I get the real estate rebate?

The real estate rebate program is run by the Commonwealth. For more information, visit their website to apply for a rebate application form or call the Commonwealth's Philadelphia District Office at (215) 560-2056.  You do not need a receipt from the City of your real estate taxes paid to apply for the rebate.

Individual Taxes

Wage tax is taken out of my paycheck, do I need to file anything?

No, there is no filing you as an individual needs to do.

I work in Philadelphia but my employer is not withholding my wage tax, how do I get them to and am I liable for the taxes?

Yes, you are liable.  You must apply for an Earnings Tax account to pay the tax owed based on your earnings and any back tax owed from since you were employed in Philadelphia..  Ask your employer to apply for a Philadelphia wage tax account.

Compliance

Can Revenue shut down businesses for not paying taxes?

The Commercial Activity License can be suspended or revoked for not being in compliance with taxes.  For-profit businesses are not allowed to operated in Philadelphia if they don't have an active Commercial Activity License.  

What is the City doing to ensure that employees and businesses doing business with the City are paying what they owe?

The City has implemented several programs that require those working for or doing business with the city to be tax compliant.  These programs include the:
  • Employee Indebtedness Program
  • Pensioner Indebtedness Program
  • New Hire Tax Compliance
  • Board Member Compliance
  • Zoning Board Variance Compliance
  • Vendor Compliance Program

Delinquencies

What is the Prothonotary's Office?

The Prothonotary is considered the clerk who keeps records and the Great Seal of the Commonwealth, issues process, enters judgment, and certifies the record. The Prothonotary of Philadelphia is appointed by the judges of the Court of Common Pleas (the Board of Judges). Judgments against businesses and individuals can be searched for on the Prothonotary’s website

Can you go to jail if you do not pay your taxes?

The City can criminally prosecute individuals for failure to pay trust fund taxes, including wage, liquor, hotel, amusement and parking taxes.  It is considered theft under the state law to collect but not remit these taxes. These cases will be referred to the District Attorney’s Office for potential prosecution and can result in up to 7 years imprisonment.

Why are third party companies calling me about my city debts?

The City has contracted with several collection agencies and co-counsel to collect on its behalf.   The list of companies is under Payments & E-File, Collection Agencies. 

Is there data on-line about who the City has sued for delinquent water and taxes?

Information on legal actions the City has taken to recoup delinquent water and tax bills can be found on the Prothonotary's website.

Tax Receivership

What is the Real Estate Tax Receivership program?

For properties with outstanding tax debts, the City of Philadelphia has the right to request that the Common Pleas Court to appoint someone to collect rents, manage a property and pay its expenses, including current and delinquent taxes, until any debts to the City are paid off. It is similar to a receiver being appointed when a business is bankruptcy or a mortgage is in default and is also referred to as Sequestration.

How can I stop Real Estate Tax Receivership?

You can prevent Real Estate Tax Receivership before the Court appoints a Receiver by paying your delinquent bills or by entering into and remaining current on a City-approved payment agreement.

What do I do if I cannot pay in full?

Contact us at 215-686-3629 to determine if you are eligible for an installment payment plan.

What is the process for appointing a Receiver?

The City will notify you by certified mail to alert you that it will be requesting that the Court appoint a Receiver. If you do not make arrangements by the date stated in the letter to take care of your debts, the City will file a petition with the Courts.

What happens after the Receiver is appointed?

The Receiver will be authorized by the Court to direct you to turn over the keys, leases and other information about the property to the Receiver.. The Receiver will contact tenants and let them know that they are now the point of contact for building issues and that rents will now be sent to them. The Receiver will manage the property until the delinquent taxes and all management fees are paid.

Are there any additional fees associated with Receivership?

Yes. The Receiver appointed by the Courts is entitled to a management fee, which will be paid out of the rents collected from the property. These fees, along with the delinquent debts, must be repaid before the management of the property can be returned to the owner.

Do I still own my property? Can I sell it, lease it, or refinance it during Receivership?

During Receivership, the ownership of the property stays the same as before the Court appoints the Receiver; however all decision about the sale, lease or financing of the property will be made by the Receiver, in consultation with the City and the Court.

Can I get a payment plan or reduction in the amount due?

If you cannot pay in full, contact the case manager assigned to your account, who will review eligibility for a payment plan. You may call 215-686-0306.

Is Real Estate Tax Receivership legal?

Yes, under Pennsylvania’s Municipal Claims and Tax Liens Act (53 P.S. § 7275), the City has the authority to appoint a receiver (also known as a Sequestrator). 

Will the Receiver pay my mortgage?

Probably not. The City has the statutory authority to have its Real Estate Taxes paid before anyone else, except the Receiver’s fees. The Receiver will also pay expenses related to operating the building, provided that funds are available from the rents collected. Failure to pay your debt to the City and winding up in receivership may lead to mortgage default.

Nobody is going to pay rent on this property, how do you expect to get money?

The Receiver, an experienced manager of troubled properties, has the power to make improvements, enter into leases, and even sell the property if that is what is necessary to get the debt repaid.

The reason I haven’t paid is that my tenants owe me back rent. Will you get them to pay?

The Receiver will direct the tenants to pay. If they do not, the Receiver will remove the tenants and install new ones.

Once the Receivership ends, am I stuck with the tenants and lease terms that the Receiver puts into place?

Yes, however the Receiver may only enter into leases of up to one year.

I live in a property and heard there is now a Receiver. Is this legit and what does that mean to me?

To check the Receivership status of a particular property, please call 215.686.0306.

How do I pay my delinquent taxes?

To make payment, use the payment coupon sent to you in the mail, visit http://www.phila.gov/revenue/realestatetax/ to pay by e-check, credit, or debit card, or call 877-309-3710 to pay by credit card. Payments are also accepted in the Concourse of the Municipal Services Building at 1401 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, Monday-Friday 8:30am to 5:00pm.

Income Based Rate Reduction Program

Income Based Earnings Tax

What are the qualifications to pay the reduced Income Based Rates for Net Profits Tax?
To qualify to pay the reduced Income-Based Rates for Earnings Tax, you must be eligible for the Pennsylvania Special Tax Forgiveness Program.

What is the Pennsylvania Special Tax Forgiveness Program?
The Pennsylvania Special Tax Forgiveness Program is available to working families who have paid income tax throughout the year and meet certain income eligibility requirements based on household size and marital status. Eligible individuals will receive tax forgiveness if they qualify. (REFER TO ELIGIBILITY INCOME TABLES ON PGS. 2 AND 3)

How much is the reduction in the Income-Based Rates?
There is a 0.5% reduction in the Income-Based Rates from the original rates (Refer to schedule below)

Reduced Resident Rates:
January 1, 2015 – June 30, 2015 = 3.42% (0.0342)
July 1, 2015 – December 31, 2015 = 3.4102% (0.034102)

Reduced Non-Resident Rates:
January 1, 2015 – June 30, 2015 = 2.9915% (0.029915)
July 1, 2015 – December 31, 2015 = 2.9828% (0.029828)

Do I need to attach any documentation to my Earnings Tax Return?
Yes. You must attach a completed Pennsylvania Schedule SP for tax year 2015 to your Earnings Tax Return to be eligible to receive the Income- Based Rates. The City of Philadelphia will verify the Schedule SP with the state’s records. Non-Pennsylvania residents who work in Philadelphia but do not file a Pennsylvania Income Tax Return must include a signed copy of their state income tax return to be eligible for the Income-Based Rates.

Income Based Net Profits Tax

What are the qualifications to pay the reduced Income-Based Rates for Net Profits Tax?
To qualify to pay the reduced Income-Based Rates for Net Profits Tax, you must be eligible for the Pennsylvania Special Tax Forgiveness Program.

What is the Pennsylvania Special Tax Forgiveness Program?
The Pennsylvania Special Tax Forgiveness Program is available to working families who have paid income tax throughout the year and meet certain income eligibility requirements based on household size and marital status. Eligible individuals will receive tax forgiveness if they qualify. (REFER TO ELIGIBILITY INCOME TABLES ON PGS. 2 AND 3)

How much is the reduction in the Income-Based Rates?
There is a 0.5% reduction in the Income-Based Rates from the original rates (Refer to schedule below)

Reduced Resident Rates
:
January 1, 2015 – June 30, 2015 = 3.42% (0.0342)
July 1, 2015 – December 31, 2015 = 3.4102% (0.034102)

Reduced Non-Resident Rates:
January 1, 2015 – June 30, 2015 = 2.9915% (0.029915)
July 1, 2015 – December 31, 2015 = 2.9828% (0.029828)

Do I need to attach any documentation to my Net Profits Tax Return?
Yes. You must attach a completed Pennsylvania Schedule SP for tax year 2015 to your Net Profits Tax Return to be eligible to receive the Income- Based Rates. The City of Philadelphia will verify the Schedule SP with the state’s records. Non-Pennsylvania residents who work in Philadelphia but do not file a Pennsylvania Income Tax Return must include a signed copy of their state income tax return to be eligible for the Income-Based Rates.

Income Based Wage Tax

What is the Pennsylvania Special Tax Forgiveness Program?
The Pennsylvania Special Tax Forgiveness Program is available to working families who have paid income tax throughout the year and meet certain income eligibility requirements based on household size and marital status. Eligible individuals will receive tax forgiveness if they qualify.

What are the qualifications to receive the Philadelphia Income-Based Wage Tax Refund?
To qualify for the Philadelphia Income-Based Wage Tax Refund you must:

    • Pay Philadelphia Wage Tax (anyone who works or resides in Philadelphia)
    • Meet certain income requirements per federal filing status and number of dependents (REFER TO ELIGIBILITY INCOME TABLES ON PGS. 3 AND 4)
As an employer, when do I have to provide a Refund Petition to employees?Businesses are required to provide employees with a Refund Petition at the same time as they give their employees a W-2 or comparable form. The deadline to provide the petition is February 1, 2016.  

What happens if I miss the deadline?
If you miss the February 1, 2016 deadline, you must provide employees with a refund petition within 30 business days. If you fail to comply with this requirement, you may be subject to criminal prosecution.

As an employee, where can I get a Refund Petition?
You should receive a refund petition from your employer with your W-2 or comparable form by February 1, 2016. You may also download a copy from the City of Philadelphia Department of Revenue’s website at http://www.phila.gov/Revenue/taxpro/Pages/refundpetitions.aspx.

Do I need to submit a single Refund Petition for each W-2 form?
The Refund Petition can accommodate up to four W-2s, however if you have additional W-2s to report, you can attach them on a separate sheet in the same format as they appear on the Petition.

How much is my Income-Based Wage Tax Refund?
You are entitled to receive a refund of 0.5% of employer withheld City Wage Tax.

How is my Refund calculated?
If you file for Pennsylvania 40 Schedule SP special tax forgiveness with the state and are approved, you will receive a reduced Resident or Non-Resident Rate which will be applied to the calculation of your refund. (Refer to schedule below)

Reduced Resident Rates
:
January 1, 2015 – June 30, 2015 = 3.42% (0.0342)
July 1, 2015 – December 31, 2015 = 3.4102% (0.034102)

Reduced Non-Resident Rates
:
January 1, 2015 – June 30, 2015 = 2.9915% (0.029915)
July 1, 2015 – December 31, 2015 = 2.9828% (0.029828)

When will I receive my refund?
You will receive your Wage Tax Refund in July 2016.

Do I need to attach any other documentation with my Refund petition?
Yes. You must attach the following:

    • All W-2 forms for which you are seeking an Income-Based Wage Tax Refund showing the Federal, Medicare, State and Local wages
    • If you file a Pennsylvania Income Tax Return, a completed Pennsylvania Schedule SP for tax year 2015. The City of Philadelphia will verify the Schedule SP was filed with and approved by the state prior to issuance of any Income-based Wage Tax Refund check.
    • Non-Pennsylvania residents who work in Philadelphia but do not file a Pennsylvania income Tax Return must include a signed copy of their state income tax return to be considered eligible for the refund.
Can I file a joint Income-Based Wage Tax Refund Petition with my spouse?
No. Each taxpayer (including spouses) must file a separate Income-Based Wage Petition. 

Sweetened Beverage Tax

What is the Sweetened Beverage Tax?

The Sweetened Beverage Tax is levied on the supply of sweetened beverages to retail dealers (ex. regular and diet sodas, teas), and is to be paid by the distributor.
  • Distributor: Any person who supplies sweetened beverage to a dealer.
  • Dealer: Any person who sells sweetened beverages at retail (ex. grocery stores, restaurants, delis).

What is the tax rate?

1.5 cents per ounce of sweetened beverages. This includes a tax on concentrates or syrups that will be calculated so that the final beverage produced from the syrup or concentrate will be taxed at 1.5 cents per ounce.

What beverages, syrups and concentrates are excluded?

Baby formula, products that are more than 50% milk, beverages that meet the definition of Medical Foods, drinks that are more than 50% fresh fruit or vegetables, and unsweetened drinks that the purchaser or seller can add sugar to at the point of sale are excluded.

When is the start date for this tax?

January 1st, 2017.

Who must pay the tax?

The liability for payment of the tax is on the licensed distributor.

I am a dealer (retailer) of sweetened drinks. What do I have to do?

  • Buy the products from a registered distributor. 
    • If you are not purchasing from a registered distributor, you must register for and pay the tax directly to the City of Philadelphia.
  • Notify the distributor that Sweetened Beverages sold to you are subject to the tax.

What if I am dealer and a registered distributor?

If the tax has already been paid by the distributor that provided the products, no additional tax is due. It does not get taxed twice. If you have not purchased from a registered distributor, you must register for and pay the tax.

When is the tax due?

The tax will be due the 15th of each month for the prior month. The first payment will be due February 15, 2017 for January 2017.

How do I register for this tax?

Registration will be available online by December 2016.

How do I file and pay the tax?

You will file and pay electronically with ePay, eFile @ www.phila.gov/Revenue/payments. The first filing and payment will be due February 15, 2017.

What happens if I cannot pay?

Please contact the City Department of Revenue to discuss making payment arrangements. Your delinquent tax obligation can be forwarded to a Collection agency for non-payment.

I still have questions, who do I ask?

More information will be available and posted on www.phila.gov/revenue over the coming weeks or months – please check back. Also, please feel free to email Revenue@phila.gov.