Baker Urges Crackdown on Senior Scams and Help for EMS and Firefighter Volunteers

HARRISBURG (March 24, 2011) Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20) warned Secretary of Revenue nominee Dan Meuser that Pennsylvania’s popular Property Tax/Rent Rebate (PTRR) program is attracting scammers who are preying upon vulnerable senior citizens. She urged the department to better educate seniors about profiteers and accelerate their crackdown on cons who target the elderly.

Meuser said the Department of Revenue has been working diligently to inform seniors that they are not required to pay someone to complete and submit their application for the rebate program.

Baker said a for-profit company has been sending letters to seniors in her area offering to complete their PTRR application for a $39 fee. She questioned how the company compiled its mailing list, noting that assistance with the application is available for free. Meuser assured Sen. Baker that the list of income-eligible seniors was not shared by the department. He echoed Sen. Baker’s concerns about scammers and pledged to heighten efforts to inform seniors that they do not need to pay for application assistance.

Meuser reported that approximately 600,000 individuals participated in the PTTR program last year, which marked an increase of 150,000 over last year. The average rebate check was $560.

Sen. Baker also pointed out that the department’s antiquated computer system was unable to process fire and EMS tax credits to married couples who were filing jointly. She asked whether the new computer project already underway will remedy such flaws, and at what cost. Meuser said the overall computer modernization project, begun in 2008, has a $100 million price tag.

The department in fiscal year 2009-10 received $15 million for the modernization; and in fiscal year 2010-11, received $15.8 million. Under questioning from Sen. Baker, Meuser also told the Appropriations Committee that the goal is to implement corporate tax collection under the new system by July 1, 2012; individual tax collection by August 1, 2013; sales tax collection, in 2014; and the remaining taxes in 2015.

Sen. Baker also asked about the health of the lottery, which funds programs for senior citizens, and inquired as to the relative health of the lottery in areas where casinos have sprung up recently. Meuser said the lottery fund balance increased by 2.7 percent this year, but only by 1.4 percent in counties with casinos. He noted, however, that some slots revenue in those counties was devoted to senior programs, and that pool amounted to $156 million, so overall, “It’s a win.”

Contact: Jennifer Wilson
(570) 675-3931

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