- Associated Press - Sunday, May 8, 2016

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - A New Mexico lawmaker says attempts to crack down on tax refund fraud is delaying payment to legitimate taxpayers throughout the state.

Rep. Debbie Armstrong, of Albuquerque, is demanding Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla disclose how regulators choose which taxpayers to scrutinize, The Santa Fe New Mexican reported (https://bit.ly/24Fid6f ).

Armstrong in a letter to the Taxation and Revenue Department, Armstrong said she believes elderly people are being targeted.

“Almost everyone I’ve talked to are seniors. One of them was my mother. If it wasn’t for me, she just would have sat down and cried and forgot about getting her refund.”

Armstrong has asked Padilla and the department for the number of refunds that have been denied due to failure to respond to the department’s request for additional documentation and for those figures to be broken down by taxpayer age, county and the number of those who paid tax professionals as opposed to those who self-filed.

Taxation and Revenue Department spokesman Ben Cloutier said the department just received Armstrong’s request and will review it.

Last month, Padilla said her department is using 27 fraud indicators to identify returns that need closer scrutiny.

Cloutier said the department is taking a closer look at some returns because of high rates of identity theft and return fraud. He said the department has stopped about 11 percent of all returns, affecting about 68,000 people. The more strenuous review means some people may have to wait longer for their tax refund and that additional documentation may be requested.

Armstrong has criticized the department for making the requested additional documents hard to fulfill. She said while helping her mother, she discovered that a fax number provided by Taxation and Revenue was always busy.

Lea Long, who works with AARP’s Tax-Aide program, said many of the people she works with are older and that she agrees that the elderly seem to have been flagged for more security more than others.

“Some people are really frightened,” she said. “They think they might be going to jail.”

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Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, https://www.sfnewmexican.com

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