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State decides no property tax extension

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Lisa Dunlap Photo Chaves County Treasurer Charlotte Andrade

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New Mexico is not giving extensions for property taxes, although state officials are considering asking the New Mexico Legislature for penalty and interest credits.

Chaves County Treasurer Charlotte Andrade advises county taxpayers to make their second half of 2019 payments now.

Andrade said she and other county treasurers talked with Cabinet Secretary Stephanie Schardin Clarke, head of the New Mexico Department of Taxation and Revenue, about deferring payments, at least temporarily, given that many people across the state are experiencing job and income losses due to COVID-19 and the business and employment restrictions put in place to prevent its spread.

“Basically we just wanted to get feedback from the state as far as possibly extending the due date for property taxes,” Andrade said.

She said they were informed no extension would be given, because the money collected is needed right away by local school districts and other entities for their operations and debt payments.

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“In order to keep everyone going and because they need that cash flow, we are going to maintain the April 10 due date, with May 10 being the 30-day date, which taxpayers can make their tax payments without penalties or interest,” Andrade said.

She added that penalties and interest actually would not kick in until May 11 because May 10 is a Sunday.

A Taxation and Revenue Department spokesman confirmed the state’s decision.

“Statute does allow us to extend the deadline to pay property taxes, but we have not done so because of the cash flow repercussions for political subdivisions,” said Communications Director Charlie Moore. “Counties, school districts, special districts (like water and soil conservation districts, for example), and to a lesser extent, municipalities, all depend on biannual receipt of property taxes to pay operating costs and bond debt service.”

But Moore added that the department is considering requesting legislative action to offset any penalties or interest that might accrue due to late payments.

“We do not have authority in statute to waive penalty or interest,” he said. “So we do plan to approach the Legislature to create a one-time credit equal to the amount of penalty and interest incurred as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.”

Although the Chaves County Treasurer’s Office is closed to the general public until at least April 30, Andrade said that taxpayers have four ways to make the payments.

They can pay online or by an automated phone system. Some fees are charged with those options due to the use of credit or debit cards or an electronic check. Taxpayers also can mail a check or money order. Another option is to drop off a check or money order to the Treasurer’s Office drive-up window on the east side of the Chaves County Administrative Center at 1 St. Mary’s Place.

Anyone with questions can call the Treasurer’s Office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, at 575-624-6618. An email also can be provided. Additional information is also available on the Treasurer’s Office page of the county website, www.co.chaves.nm.us.

Andrade said advertisements and reminder notices have provided local taxpayers with information as well.

The first half of 2019 property taxes were due no later than Dec. 10. What is now due is the second half.

Some taxpayers also have been participating in a pre-payment option that allows smaller monthly payments, Andrade said.

“We have a lot of taxpayers who are utilizing the pre-payment option,” said Andrade. “We just have to wait to see. Hopefully by the May 10 (deadline), people will have started receiving the stimulus (checks). … We are hoping that will help. In general, we are just trying to (continue collections) because of the trickle down effect for all the entities that we collect for.”

Chaves County collects about $34.6 million worth of property taxes each year from about 40,000 accounts. The Treasurer’s Office collection rate has averaged 99.38% during the past 10 years.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

 

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.