Navigating Tax Challenges with New Mexico Legal Aid's LITC
Picture this: Jane, a single mother grappling with the intricacies of tax filings, suddenly finds herself in a dispute with the IRS. The stress compounds as she contemplates navigating this labyrinth alone and losing her refund. Enter New Mexico Legal Aid’s Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC).
The Importance of Tax to Low and Middle Income Families
For low-income families, taxes aren’t just a legal obligation; they’re a cornerstone of financial stability. Up to 20 percent of a New Mexico family’s cash flow may come from child-based tax credits like the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit.
For 2023, for example, a family with three “qualifying children” could receive an earned income tax credit refund of up to $7,430 and a child tax credit of up to $6,000. When these credits are challenged by the IRS, or when refunds are frozen, families are devastated. They need legal representation by the attorneys at New Mexico Legal Aid’s Low Income Taxpayer Clinic.
Are you eligible for LITC’s free services? Generally, yes, if your income is less than or equal to 250% of the federal poverty level.
Types of Disputes:
The spectrum of IRS disputes is broad—from audits to U.S. Tax Court cases, from documenting deductions to battling tax-related identity theft. The LITC can help, whether you’re having difficulty paying prior year liability or facing tax debt incurred by an abusive spouse.
Exclusions and Limits:
While LITC’s services are invaluable, it’s essential to understand the clinic’s focus. Personal income tax cases take center stage, including income from sole proprietorships and independent contractor work. Though partnerships or incorporated businesses fall outside its scope, the Clinic may offer advice or referrals in such cases.
Applying for the LITC’s support is straightforward—call the clinic directly at 505-814-6593, or use NMLA’s intake hotline (833-545-4357), or apply online at www.newmexicolegalaid.org.
Even if your case doesn’t align with the clinic’s criteria, there’s a safety net in place. LITC endeavors to connect individuals with volunteer practitioners—attorneys, CPAs, or enrolled agents—who offer assistance at no cost.
The LITC provides its services at no cost. In addition, the clinic actively collaborates with the IRS and the U.S. Tax Court to waive or reduce third-party fees for low-income taxpayers. This commitment ensures that financial constraints never become a barrier to accessing vital support.
Preparing for Legal Consultation:
For those awaiting a consultation, proactive steps can significantly impact the outcome. It is important that prospective clients gather and keep documentation to provide to the LITC, including copies of IRS correspondence and tax returns. They must also inform the LITC of any deadlines stated in IRS letters. If possible, taxpayers should also read IRS Publication 1, on the rights and obligations of a taxpayer.
Free or Low-Cost Tax Preparation:
Beyond tax dispute resolution, LITC directs individuals to resources for tax preparation assistance. From Tax Help New Mexico to AARP Tax-Aide, free in-person appointments and online tools are recommended. The clinic goes the extra mile, guiding taxpayers to IRS-certified volunteers for in-person or virtual assistance—ensuring a holistic approach to financial well-being.
The Low Income Taxpayer Clinic at NMLA does not generally provide tax return preparation services itself. If you need tax preparation assistance, please consider the following:
- Tax Help New Mexico: For those in Central NM, TaxHelpNM will prepare current year tax returns (and prior years in some cases), with free appointments available on a rolling basis. Go to www.TaxHelpNM.org or call 505-750-3885 for updates or to make an appointment. Appointments must be scheduled promptly, as the time slots fill up quickly.
- Call AARP Tax Aide at 888-227-7669 or visit http://AARP.info/TaxAideLocator, and make a free in-person appointment. You can sign up for text/SMS alerts at the link above.
- Free do-it-yourself federal tax filing software is available at www.irs.gov/filing/free-file-do-your-federal-taxes-for-free for those with incomes of $73,000 or less.
- Visit www.GetYourRefund.org - (will reopen January 31, 2024) If your income is $66,000 or less, use this to get connected to IRS volunteers around the country to have your tax returns prepared online or over the phone.
- Visit www.MyFreeTaxes.com - If your income is $73,000 or less, use this to prepare your own returns with help from IRS certified volunteers if/when you need help. If your income is $60,000 or below, there is even more help available.
- To find other free tax preparation sites near you, visit https://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep.
- You can file your New Mexico return by using the Taxpayer Access Point system. https://tap.state.nm.us/tap/_.
- If you are unable to find a free tax preparer, consider hiring an Enrolled Agent: call NM Society of Enrolled Agents (NMSEA) at 505-877-1598, or https://nmsea.net, or https://taxexperts.naea.org.
- Lutheran Family Services (for refugees), 505-933-7032
As tax season unfolds, the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic at New Mexico Legal Aid stands as a beacon of empowerment for those in need. Its commitment to navigating the complexities of tax disputes ensures that individuals and families, regardless of income, have a fighting chance at financial stability. Remember, in the intricate web of tax challenges, help is not only available but is just a call or click away, ready to make a lasting impact on lives.
For more information, please contact us:
- Nathaniel Puffer (Clinic Director) at 505-814-6593
- Grace Allison at 505-234-3795
- Anne Rothrock at 505-545-8543
- Email: LITC@nmlegalaid.org