County is not alone in violation of tax law

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By David Giuliani

San Miguel County is hardly alone when it comes to problems in its compliance with a state law dating back to 1991, an official says.

County Treasurer Alfonso Ortiz told the County Commission last week that the state Department of Taxation and Revenue told him that only two counties were in compliance with the law in question.

“I felt a little bit better when I heard that, but we should have caught it,” he said.

He said that he has read the state law repeatedly, but it’s still open to interpretation.

“It should be simplified. Right now, it’s vague,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz revealed to the commission last month that the treasurer’s office may have to  pay back the state money it collected in penalties and interest from delinquent taxpayers that was supposed to have gone to the state in the first place.

He said the problem was discovered when a representative of Taxation and Revenue couldn’t reconcile the numbers when auditing the treasurer’s office late last year.

Ortiz then discovered that the county never complied with the 1991 law, which required the county to give a greater portion of penalties and interest to the state.

Ortiz said he’s not sure how much the county will have to pay back the state, but there’s talk that the county may be allowed to put the money back into a better computer system. At last month’s commission meeting, a state official said the treasurer’s office computer system made it much more difficult for the department to arrive at a number.

The state will only charge for the last three years, not all the way back to 1991.

Ortiz said the county may consider hiring a tax collector who will work in the field, which could help the county keep more of the interest and penalties, rather than letting that money go to the state.

Hiring a tax collector now is not likely because of the declining national economy, Ortiz said.