(Pittsburgh) Oct. 28, 2015A legal settlement has been reached in which Hertz Corporation has agreed to
pay more than $2.5 million identified by the office of Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner as being owed
to the County in connection with vehicle rentals at Pittsburgh International Airport.
“These millions of dollars in unpaid taxes, penalties and interest would never have been discovered without the
diligent work of my office’s auditing team,” Wagner said.
After identifying $743,107 in unpaid taxes, including applicable penalties and interest, during an initial audit
completed in December 2014, Wagner’s auditors investigated further, broadening their inquiry to the inception
of the Rental Vehicle Tax in 2008, to determine that Hertz owed an additional $1.8 million — $840,790 in
unpaid taxes and an estimated $930,099 in penalties and interest. The Controller provided the total amount due
to the Treasurer’s Office, which bears responsibility for collection, in April 2015.
According to County and State law, a $2 tax is to be collected per day per each rented vehicle by all
rental car companies in Allegheny County, including locations at the Airport. The tax is then remitted to
the County Treasurer on a monthly basis. Funds acquired through the car rental tax
are required by law to support public transit.
“With public transit service lagging behind demand and neighborhoods remaining without service after
years of cutbacks, these dollars are vital to the residents of Allegheny County. This is a prime example of
the value of audits–this $2.5 million could restore two bus routes for an entire year,” Wagner said.
The Controller’s Office regularly audits concession contracts at Pittsburgh International Airport.
In 2012, since Controller’s Office auditors were already onsite at the Airport, Wagner suggested that the
Office expand concession contract audits with the car rental companies to include the car rental tax, becoming
the first controller to perform such audits. The car rental tax was enacted, along with the “drink tax,” in 2008.
“This result shows the value that can be achieved when my office’s team of professional auditors
examines public authorities. Despite this significant recovery of tax dollars, the Airport Authority and others
remain in Court fighting my efforts to look at all of their operations. I am confident that my office could identify
even greater savings and efficiency if these Authorities would open their books,” Wagner said.
A judge is currently considering the legality of the refusal of the Airport Authority–along with the Port Authority,
Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN), Sports and Exhibition Authority (SEA), and County Police–to open their books
to scrutiny by the County’s elected Chief Fiscal Officer and her team of professional, certified auditors. Wagner said
her office has filed briefs on all issues being considered, and is anticipating a decision on these matters soon.
Lou Takacs, Communications Specialist