ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s tax season. For the first time, the City of Albuquerque has a new ordinance that could protect filers from losing their refunds. It’s a law many aren’t aware of.
With taxes due next month, the ordinance could save many the headache and anxiety that comes with overpaying while filing your taxes.
For example, a story far too common: a mother being taken advantage of.
“A single mother with two toddlers whose total earnings were about $3,000,” said Allison Grace, a tax attorney who helps low-income clients. She said she was trying to help one person who fell victim to mishandled tax preparations. “She was counting on her $1,200 refund, counting on it. She came to me angry because the tax preparer had only given her 600.”
The City of Albuquerque is looking to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
Mayor Tim Keller signed the city’s Tax Preparer Ordinance into law late last year, making this the first tax season with the new law. The ordinance makes it so that independent tax preparers have to disclose how much it will cost filers to have their taxes done.
If a filer feels they have been overcharged, they can call the city, and the city could cite the preparer if it checks out.
“These are your rights as a taxpayer. When you hire a tax preparer, you’re entitled to get a list of all the fees you may be charged. They have to explain to you how they are going to charge you, at least, how they’re going to calculate it. They have to tell you what their qualifications are,” said Mari Kempton, manager with the city’s Department of Consumer Protection, who enforces the ordinance.
In the State of New Mexico, you don’t have to be certified to prepare taxes. The city said this helps out those most at risk of falling victim to illegitimate, independent preparers.
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“We have been hearing complaints from advocates, immigrant advocates, especially or other vulnerable populations that were having a lot of problems with incompetent preparation or just being overcharged, and a lot of people that get overcharged are low-income people who need the money and would qualify for almost all the free tax preparation options,” Kempton said.
Depending on how severe the infraction is, the fine amount could vary. The ordinance does not apply to CPA, IRS agents, or tax attorneys because they already are certified and monitored by their respective agencies or the state.