September 28, 2016

Senate candidate claimed $6000 in Valencia County tax breaks he never earned

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  • Valencia Co. Senate candidate cheated on property taxes, deductions he was not eligible for add up to thousands in back taxes owed to County
  • County tax records show that Senate candidate Greg Baca claimed to live in both Bernalillo & Valencia County, claiming head-of-household exemptions for both.
  • State law makes it a crime to claim ineligible exemptions; Could face prosecution and repayment of $6000 in taxes owed

Paying our fair share of taxes is our responsibility as citizens.  Locally, property taxes fund county government including police and fire protection, road maintenance, education for our kids and economic development and job training for our communities.

But a comparison of county tax records in Bernalillo and Valencia Counties show that Republican Senate Candidate Greg Baca abused a bureaucratic gap in the state’s tax assessment system and claimed to live in two different residences in both counties at the same time, claiming a $2000 per year, per property tax exemption in violation of state law and cheating taxpayers of at least one of those counties.

But the state does not maintain a single tax assessment database so County Assessors have no way of knowing if a taxpayer has claimed an exemption in other properties in other counties. Instead, the law places the responsibility to update the records on the property owner.

Lots of New Mexicans like Greg Baca own multiple homes.  In most cases they live in one and rent out another for extra income.  But to increase incentives for working families to buy homes the state legislature created the “Head of Family” tax exemption, allowing homeowners to deduct $2000 per year from their local property taxes on their primary residence (NMSA 7-38-17 (D).

But state law makes it clear that even though New Mexicans can own property in multiple counties, property owners may only claim that $2000 credit in one county and on one property each year.

NMSA 7-37-4 (E).     “A head of a family is entitled to the exemption allowed by this section only once in any tax year and may claim the exemption in only one county in any tax year even though the claimant may own property subject to valuation for property taxation purposes in more than one county.

But tax records obtained online and by public records requests show that at least one recent Bernalillo County resident has been receiving that credit on homes he owned in both Bernalillo and Valencia Counties.

valencia-county-1

Further, NMSA 7-38-17 (G) provides that,

“ A person who violates the provisions of this section by intentionally claiming and receiving the benefit of an exemption to which the person is not entitled or who fails to comply with the provisions of Subsection D [notification of ineligibility to the county assessor] of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000)” (emphasis and bracketed references added).

Records available from the Valencia County Treasurer’s Office show that “Gregory Baca and Cynthia R Baca” have paid the property tax bill at their residence at 340 Open Range Ave SW in Los Lunas, including the Head of Household exemption, since at least 2013.

Bernalillo County tax records show that he claimed the same exemptions at his Albuquerque home at 6109 Medford Ct. NW. Baca was registered and voted in Albuquerque elections through November 2015 when he quickly changed his voter registration to his parent’s residence in Belen just before candidates for office began gathering nominating signatures for state offices.

Read more about Baca’s residence history in this post.

At $2000 a year, Baca has cheated at least $6000 from taxpayers in at least one county. And since Baca lived and voted in Bernalillo County during those years it appears that he was “not entitled” to the $6000 in credits in Valencia County.

A letter outlining these findings was delivered to the District Attorneys and County Assessors of each county on Wednesday.