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Auditor General Jack Wagner: potentially hundreds of thousands missing out on property tax relief

February 23, 2010-- Potentially hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania homeowners are not receiving the tax relief from slots casinos revenue because the state has created a complicated, fragmented and cumbersome application process that discourages participation, according to a special report issued today by Auditor General Jack Wagner.

Wagner said that the state should designate a single agency, preferably the Department of Revenue, to administer the program. He also called on the General Assembly and Gov. Rendell to push back this year's application deadline from March 1 to April 15, to give property owners more time to learn more about the program and apply for tax relief.

What we have here is a failure of the state government to communicate Wagner said. The property tax relief promised to Pennsylvania homeowners has to be more about homeowner help and less hype, and state government must take the lead in that effort he added.

Wagner's auditors also found that state officials have overstated the amount of casino revenue being disbursed for property tax relief. They found that the state has thus far returned about $1.7 billion in slots revenues to taxpayers-- one fifth less that the $2.1 billion touted by the state.

Wagner said, it is unacceptable for the government to exaggerate a program by 20 percent to make it sound better than it is.

Wagner's 62 page special report noted many property owners are not even aware that they are eligible for tax relief.

The report cited many reasons for why Pennsylvania homeowners are missing out on property tax relief. The primary reason is that relief is not automatic; homeowners must apply for it.

Wagner said the average property tax rebate was $189 last year.

The Department of Auditor General has created a how-to section on its web page, www.auditorgen.state.pa.us to help Pennsylvania homeowners seeking property tax relief, including a checklist and link(s) to obtain the application for property tax relief. Confused homeowners may also contact the department's Taxpayer Advocate toll free at 1 800 922 8477 for information on how to apply for property tax relief.

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