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c. Rudi Klimpert

REAL ID trouble closes Bernalillo MVD office

~Bill Diven

Confusion over compliance with the federal REAL ID Act led to the temporary closure of the Motor Vehicle Division office in Bernalillo Town Hall in March.

One result is an unknown number of 1,754 people who received new drivers licenses there will either find a new license in their mail or be told to return with additional documentation, according to town officials. Meanwhile, the office closed on March 10 for an indefinite time while state MVD staff reviewed all the licenses and copies of supporting documents.

At last report, the office was tentatively set to reopen by the end of March. The town operates the office with three of its employees under a state contract.

Most of the disputed licenses were issued with only the person's middle initial instead of a full middle name and will be replaced by mail based on documents already provided. For a few others the town staff accepted a hospital birth registration as proof of identity and will now need to see, in-person, a state-filed birth certificate or other valid identity documents.

During the first Town Council meeting after the closure, Bernalillo Clerk-Administrator Ida Fierro said the state's training of the town employees was incomplete. "They never told the girls not to use middle initials," she said.

The state Regulation and Licensing Department, parent of MVD, disputed that saying municipal staffs received the same in-depth training statewide.

"Unfortunately, the Bernalillo Municipal office did not follow the correct procedure in all cases," Director of Communications Ben Cloutier said in a written response to Signpost questions. "Of the forty Municipal MVD offices in New Mexico only two, Tijeras and Bernalillo, have experienced this problem and in both cases, the MVD has uncovered the problem and worked to quickly correct the Municipal office’s error."

How many licenses must be reissued is not yet known although in Tijeras the number was reportedly about 150 of more than six hundred.

State staff also took the town clerks to task for the pace of their work, saying it shouldn't take more than ten minutes to issue licenses and 15 minutes for vehicle titles, Fierro said. Councilor Tina Dominguez said from her experiences the MVD clerks aren't chitchatting but are helping people.

Some people just need more help, Mayor Jack Torres said. "Our other job, like all of us, is public service," he added.

Issuing new licenses and ID cards compliant with federal law began on November 14 and came after years of dispute between the governor and the Legislature over how to handle immigrants both documented and undocumented. Confusion over required documentation followed the rollout with some MVD patrons discovering they first had to resolve conflicts in how their names appeared on different documents.

Eventually all New Mexico drivers will need a REAL ID license; others will want a compliant ID card. One or the other is required to enter some secure federal facilities and eventually will be necessary for airline travel, although passports and some other documents are also acceptable.

Details on the documents proving identity and place of residence can be found on by clicking Driver's Licenses/ID's on the MVD website www.mvd.newmexico.gov.


April 18 marks deadline to file tax returns

The Internal Revenue Service has started accepting and processing 2016 federal individual income tax returns. People have until April 18, 2017, to file their 2016 returns and pay any taxes due. The IRS expects more than seventy percent of taxpayers to get tax refunds this year. Last year, 111 million refunds were issued, with an average refund of $2,860.

A law change now requires the IRS to hold refunds on tax returns claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until February 15. Under this change required by the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, the IRS must hold the entire refund—even the portion not associated with the EITC and ACTC. This law change gives the IRS more time to detect and prevent fraud.

The IRS expects more than eighty percent of returns to be filed electronically. Choosing e-file and direct deposit remains the fastest and safest way to file an accurate income tax return and receive a refund.

All taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a tax filing software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

Low- and moderate-income taxpayers can get help filing their tax return for free. More than ninety thousand volunteers around the country can help people correctly complete their return. To get this filing help, taxpayers can visit one of the more than 12,000 community-based tax help sites that participate in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs. To find the nearest site, use the VITA/TCE Site Locator on IRS.gov or the IRS2Go mobile app.


IRS encourages tribal communities to check out the Earned Income Tax Credit

The Internal Revenue Service urges Native American taxpayers to look into the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and correctly claim it if they qualify. EITC and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) can greatly reduce poverty for working families.

The EITC is a federal income tax credit for working people who don't earn a lot ($53,505 or less for 2016) and meet certain eligibility requirements. Because it’s a refundable credit, those who qualify and claim the credit could pay less federal tax, pay no tax, or even get a tax refund.

The IRS has identified American Indian communities as a group of workers at risk for overlooking this important credit. To qualify for EITC, the taxpayer must meet basic rules and have earned income from employment, being self-employed, farming, ranching, or running a business. For more information on EITC and other refundable credits, visit the EITC page on IRS.gov.


IRS cautions taxpayers to recognize scams

~Bill Brunson, IRS Media Relations

The Internal Revenue Service and its Security Summit partners caution taxpayers to avoid identity theft by watching for phishing scams that can increase around the tax season. The easiest way for an identity thief to steal taxpayer information is by simply asking for it. As a result, each day people fall victim to phishing scams through emails, texts, or phone calls, and mistakenly turn over important data. In turn, cybercriminals try to use that data to file fraudulent tax returns or commit other crimes. Do not turn over valuable information, unless you are absolutely sure of who it is you are giving it to.

 
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