Unless state taxation officials can be persuaded to switch back to a previous process, owners of properties with delinquent taxes may no longer be able to submit partial payments and will have to work with the state, not the local county treasurer to resolve the debt.
Expressing their frustration at the change in the state's handling of tax delinquent properties, Lincoln County commissioners vented their disappointment Tuesday and agreed to protest the policy.
County Manager Nita Taylor briefed commissioners on a letter received Sept. 24 from the New Mexico Tax and Revenue Department about property tax delinquency lists, collection and remittance of penalties, interest and costs.
Taylor said state officials decided to revive a law that was passed in 1990, but the process outlined was never followed. The state proposes to remove a county treasurer's ability to accept partial payments for taxes once a property appears on the tax delinquency list. The law requires all penalties, interest and costs collected after a property appears on a list to be paid to and retained by the taxation and revenue department.
Any documented noncompliance would be a serious matter that the state would not overlook and could lead to a variety of adverse consequences, including suspension and efforts to collect county penalties, interest and costs that should have been remitted to the RTD, but were not, Taylor wrote.
County Treasurer Glenna Robbins provided documentation that included correspondence from the TRD in 2011 authorizing the county to act as its agent in accepting "all" payments on accounts submitted to the department on a delinquency list. A 2012 notice modifies that authority for the county to accept only payment in full on those accounts.
In a reply letter sent to the TRD, Robbins pointed out that the state's own audits found no deficiencies and that the county complied with all regulations concerning the collection and remittance of penalties, interest and cost to the state. She noted that each year, the delinquency list contains more than 100 properties, but over the months from July to the time the Property Tax Department sets a sale date, most have bee paid in full because of the ability of the her office to collect the delinquent taxes. The payments are posted timely and tax collections are distributed to various taxing entities monthly. The penalty and interest is distributed to the TRD, Robbins wrote.
Her concern is that the relinquishment of the authority to accept partial payments will place a hardship on county taxpayers and others, that the loss of the check and balance system that the treasurer has in place will be jeopardized by property tax money that belongs to taxing entities not getting to them in a timely manner, Robbins wrote.
"This new process also takes away the county's ability to work with the taxpayer to pay down the delinquent account," she stated. "The treasurer requests the authority to accept partial payments be returned to the county."
Similar letters were fired off by treasurers in the other 32 counties, Robbins noted. The treasurers also sought assistance from the New Mexico Association of Counties. An association representative told commissioners after several meetings with state tax officials, the association hoped for a change, but was disappointed when the decision was to stay on course with the payment ultimatum. A letter received Tuesday before the meeting declared there is no conflict between the regulation and the duties of the treasurer. Another meeting is set for Oct. 24, in Santa Fe to discuss the issue.
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