Immigrant rights group cites delays in tax-refund settlement
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Immigrant rights groups criticized New Mexico taxation officials Wednesday for taking too much time to review past tax filings that could result in refunds to thousands of foreign nationals, under a legal settlement signed last year.
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund regional attorney Marisa Bono told a state district court judge that eight months have passed since attorneys for the Department of Taxation and Revenue signed an agreement to automatically provide tax refunds that were improperly withheld in 2015.
Under the agreement, the taxation department agreed to stop automatically withholding income tax refunds from many foreign nationals without Social Security numbers who file under alternative identification numbers provided by the IRS.
Mark Baker, an attorney representing the state agency, said the review of tax filings and refunds is a complicated task — made more difficult during the current tax filing season and by department leadership changes.
District court judge David Thomson declined to set a deadline for compliance with the settlement because the contract had not been finalized until now, as he agreed to dismiss the original lawsuit. Bono said plaintiffs will return to court to head off further delays in delivering overdue refunds.
Bono’s group and Somos Un Pueblo Unido say the practice of withholding tax refunds owed to foreign nationals started in 2012.
At previous court hearings, former Taxation Secretary Demesia Padilla denied targeting immigrants, while acknowledging that the agency used an automated software system to flag inconsistencies on tax returns and withhold refunds to seek more information as a precaution against fraud.
Padilla resigned as taxation secretary in December as prosecutors investigated whether she may have given preferential treatment to a former business client. John Monforte serves as acting secretary.