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Two advisory panels to study NM’s tax code

SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Friday announced the creation of two new task forces that will study New Mexico’s tax system and recommend possible changes.

The effort marks the newest development in a long-running debate over the fairness of New Mexico’s code, which some have compared to “Swiss cheese” due to a multitude of allowable tax credits and deductions.

Secretary of Taxation and Revenue Stephanie Schardin Clarke

It also comes after the Journal published a story on the ongoing debate over a tax package approved this year by lawmakers that, among other changes, expanded a tax credit for working families while also authorizing state and local governments to begin levying a tax on online sales.

“Tax policy is an important way we express our values as a state and raise the revenue to meet our goals,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “These committees will study reform measures thoroughly and help us make sure we get it right.”

Both advisory panels will be led by Taxation and Revenue Secretary Stephanie Schardin Clarke, a Lujan Grisham appointee, and are expected to meet quarterly.

The groups are expected to hold at least one meeting before the start of a 30-day legislative session in January, a Taxation and Revenue Department spokesman said Friday.

One of the task forces is a 12-member tax policy advisory committee tasked with studying the strengths and weaknesses of New Mexico’s tax code, comparable to other states. It will be made up of legislators, tax policy experts and representatives from two groups that represent local governments statewide.

The other task force, a 10-member tax practitioner advisory committee, will include state officials, tax attorneys and other industry representatives. It will focus on potential improvements in tax enforcement, including auditing and litigation.

In recent years, there has been ample debate over legislative proposals to overhaul New Mexico’s gross receipts tax system, but those bills have fallen short of winning approval, due in large part to concern over what their financial impact on the state would be.

Already, lawmakers authorized $400,000 in 2017 to develop a computer model to help them analyze potential changes to the tax code.

Meanwhile, New Mexico’s Taxation and Revenue Department has struggled with high vacancy rates – reaching 30% when Lujan Grisham took office – and some lawmakers have in recent years questioned whether the state is collecting all the tax dollars it’s owed.

The agency’s vacancy rate is currently at about 26%, department spokesman Charlie Moore said.

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