ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The state gets thousands of tax returns a year filed by illegal immigrants. This year, Tax and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla said they'll all go under the microscope.
The state will be sending letters to illegal immigrants who have filed tax returns to verify their identity.
"In prior years, the state has issued out those refunds and no questions asked," said Padilla.
But that's all changing this year. Padilla said the federal government knows a lot of illegal immigrants use fake or stolen social security numbers to get jobs, which will appear on the W-2 tax form that is filed by employers. The government still wants undocumented workers to pay taxes on what they earn, so the Internal Revenue Service gives them a special I.D. number to put on their taxes that signifies they're illegal immigrants, according to Padilla.
The state receives about 16,000 returns a year with the two different numbers. Because illegal immigrants are using social security numbers that do not belong to them, Padilla said those returns are inherently fraudulent.
"We have something here that doesn't match," said Padilla. "We have potentially fraud."
Padilla said the state suspects some of those returns may be completely phony, for example, people may be trying to collect refunds without ever working.
"(We want to make sure) that it's not also a fraudulent employer they might have made up for the purposes of filing a tax return to get a refund check," said Padilla. "It's just trying to do a reconciliation, so we don't pay out money that we don't need to pay out."
Padilla said the department is still working on a list of acceptable documentation verifying proof of identity. So far, the state has paid out $1.3 million in returns to illegal immigrants this year. Those individuals will also need to prove their identity or pay back the refund.
"We're doing everything we can to crack down on the fraud that might, that may exist," said Padilla.
But critics said, just like the driver's license issue, the program is another example of the Martinez administration pushing an anti-immigrant agenda.
"Unfortunately this administration seems to be governing out of fear, governing without any factual evidence, governing to win political victories," said Javier Martinez from the Partnership of Community Action.
Martinez said the program is a waste of taxpayer money and resources. Some critics also believe the program may discourage undocumented workers from filing their taxes.
Secretary Padilla does not believe that is the case.
A tax and revenue department spokesman said it is unclear how much the crackdown will cost.
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