Business Briefs, Jan. 28 - Feb. 5

Doug Cantwell
Posted 2/5/20

The AARP Foundation Tax Aide program is offering free income tax return preparation services at the Taos County Senior Citizen Center from now through April 14 at its new location at 200 Albright Street, just south of the county administration building.

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Business Briefs, Jan. 28 - Feb. 5

Posted

Free tax help available for seniors

The AARP Foundation Tax Aide program is offering free income tax return preparation services at the Taos County Senior Citizen Center from now through April 14 at its new location at 200 Albright Street, just south of the county administration building.

Come to the senior center on Tuesdays and make your appointment directly with Tax Aide volunteers. You can also make your appointment online at aarpfoundation.org/taxhelp using the Taos zip code 87571. Appointments will not be made over the phone as they have in the past.

Last year, according to Bob Newell, district coordinator, AARP's team of 13 volunteers helped more than 800 Taos taxpayers complete their returns.

When you come to the senior center for your appointment, bring the following:

1. A current photo ID (driver's license or state ID) for each person signing the return

2. A Social Security card for every person to be listed on the tax return

3. All tax documents received for tax year 2019

4. Form 1095A from your health insurance provider (if you purchased marketplace insurance)

5. Your 2019 property tax bill or documentation of rent paid

6. Your completed tax return package from last year

7. Your checkbook with bank information for direct deposit of refunds

8. Your spouse (if married) to sign the completed return.

Note: If you also need to file a prior year or amended return, you'll need to make a second appointment for the additional return.

Home Construction Defect bill moves ahead

A new bill that would establish a system of remediation between homeowners, general contractors and subcontractors passed the House Commerce and Economic Development committee Monday (Jan. 27).

Sponsored by Representative Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, and Representative Dayan Hochman-Vigil, D-Albuquerque, House Bill 64 is intended to prevent costly settlements based on vague claims of home defects.

"People shouldn't be sued who shouldn't be sued," said Ely. "The proliferation of lawsuits against very well-qualified subcontractors, some being sued as many as 17 times, is detrimental to home construction in our state. This bill sets up an accessible system for all parties to responsibly bring forward home defect issues and come to a resolution without putting New Mexicans out of work or a black cloud over a home title."

According to a release from Jennifer Abbotts, press secretary for Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, an increasing number of subcontractors are going out of business due to numerous lawsuits of this kind, forcing hardworking New Mexicans out of work. Homeowners are also impacted by the proliferation of lawsuits against subcontractors, as home titles involved in litigation can make the process of selling a home much more difficult.

House Bill 64 passed the committee vote unanimously and will be heard next by the House Judiciary Committee.

Vista Grande implements new programs

Vista Grande High School has begun implementing two new programs using grants awarded under New Mexico's Community Schools Act and Indigenous Education Initiative.

The school has already taken a more proactive role in implementing culturally and linguistically responsive teaching methods for all students, which includes educating non-Native students and faculty to be more culturally aware. However, VGHS wants to reassure all stakeholders that the school is not becoming a Native-only institution, that it will continue to operate as a community school serving all students in the greater Taos area.

Vista Grande has hired three new full-time staff to support the Indigenous Education and Community Schools initiatives. Marie Martinez, originally from Ohkay Owingeh but recently from Taos Pueblo, has a deep background in education. Harold LeftHand, of Taos Pueblo, Jicarilla Apache and Cheyenne origins, also comes from Taos Pueblo. LeftHand has a good working knowledge of Taos Pueblo and government-to-government relationships, which will serve him well in his new position. Amanda Flores, who joins VGHS from Denver, brings a background in creative youth development and has worked at the intersection of art and social change in the nonprofit sector.

This new version of the Indigenous Education Initiative has been adopted by New Mexico in response to the 2018 Yazzie/Martinez v. New Mexico lawsuit, which argued that the state was not living up to its constitutional obligation to provide an equal education to all students. The ruling identified four demographic groups that were at risk of the educational shortfall: indigenous students, English language learners, special education students and those from economically challenged backgrounds.

The objective of New Mexico's Community Schools Act is to engage local communities and schools as partners in order to provide more resources for students and families as well as for the community as a whole. A community school is defined as an integration of services focused on academic, health and social services, youth and community development, and community engagement - which is aimed at improving learning, creating stronger families and building healthier communities.

The four pillars of community schools include active community and family engagement; collaborative leadership and practices; expanded and enriched learning time and opportunities; and integrated student supports. This holistic approach draws upon the intrinsic knowledge and skills of the community to provide meaningful education that prepares students for success in all areas of their lives.

Taxpayers may authorize representative

Taxpayers can now authorize a representative to access their New Mexico tax information on their behalf for up to three years.

Previously under New Mexico law, taxpayers could authorize a representative - typically a family member or tax professional - to access their tax information for no longer than one year. Tax practitioners requested the option to keep authorizations in place for longer periods.

Taxpayers can now grant access to their tax records for one, two or three years. They can also cancel the authorization at any time by notifying the Taxation and Revenue Department.

The change will reduce paperwork and increase efficiency in addressing tax matters for taxpayers, their representatives and the department.

An updated taxpayer authorization form is now available at tax.newmexico.gov on the "Forms and Publications" page; through the "Tax Authorization Procedure" link on the "Tax Professionals" page; or through the "Fill, Print & Go" link on the home page. The form can be printed as a pdf for filling out by hand or filled out online and then printed as a pdf.

"The Taxation and Revenue Department is open to suggestions for making it easier to comply with New Mexico's tax laws and regulations," said Taxation and Revenue Secretary Stephanie Schardin Clarke. "This is a change that came about as the result of being willing to listen to customers and that we hope will make their lives just a little bit easier."

- Compiled by Doug Cantwell

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