WEST WYOMING – When Berkheimer Tax Administration Services sent a tax bill this week to the late Fred Thieman, his daughter was appalled and decided to protest.
Barbara Stahley, 69, called Berkheimer to let the company know her father was deceased and would not be paying the per capita tax. Expecting to be thanked for offering the information, Stahley said she was told she would have to provide a copy of her father's death certificate.
After that, I was going to return the tax bill and write on it to have it forwarded to Mount Olivet Cemetery, said Stahley, of West Wyoming. The attitude of that employee was awful. She actually hurt me..
Adding insult to injury, Stahley said her 72-year-old husband, Carl, who has been retired for seven years, also received a per capita tax bill from Berkheimer. The base amount for the tax is $10.
They told me I needed to present a copy of my father's death certificate and my husband's birth certificate, Stahley said. Why should I have to pay $10 or $15 for a death certificate or a copy of a birth certificate? And why should we have to travel to the courthouse in Wilkes-Barre or Scranton?
The answer is neither she nor anybody else should have to present those documents, said Jim Hunt, director of sales for Berkheimer. Hunt said his employee was wrong in asking for them, and he will see that the 50 customer service representatives employed by Berkheimer understand that immediately.
We apologize for this, Hunt said. And I assure you we will tell our employees not to ask for those documents. We should have thanked Mrs. Stahley for the information and closed the accounts.
Stahley is not upset with the borough or the Wyoming Area School District, which are the recipients of the tax, she said.
Hunt said when a previous tax collector, the Don Wilkinson Agency, forwarded its information, the lists did not include dates of birth or ages. Berkheimer had no way of knowing how old people were or whether they were alive or deceased, he said.
We have no information whether a person is 18 or 80, Hunt said. But we should never ask for a death certificate. We should have thanked her for the information.
If a resident is sent a tax bill for a deceased person or retiree, said Hunt, the resident should contact Berkheimer and the agency will close the account. School districts might require a copy of a person's driver's license for proof of age, if over 65, he said. The person will then be removed from its tax list.
Stahley said Hunt called her to apologize and said the employee should have taken her at her word.
I'm glad I called, she said. I'm just looking for them to do their job better and to be more courteous and understanding.
She said many senior citizens might not know to challenge the bill. I think I accomplished something here, said Stahley. Maybe they will treat people – especially seniors – better from now on.