BY KEN MILDER
Los Alamos County Assessor
Paying taxes is never pleasant. Paying more than you should will only add insult to injury, yet that’s exactly what approximately half of Los Alamos residential property owners are doing by not taking advantage of available tax-saving opportunities.
Los Alamos property owners should have received a Notice of Value, which was mailed on March 31. It behooves taxpayers to look closely at the notice to assure themselves that the valuation is correct, the property’s classification is correct, and that they are receiving all the exemptions to which they are entitled. (Special Note: “Full Value” is the assessed value for taxation purposes. It might not be the same as market value. More on this later.)
April 30 is this year’s deadline for requesting those tax-saving exemptions. April 30 is also the deadline for questioning your property’s valuation or classification.
So, how do you know if you’re applying tax-saving opportunities and how do you request them in the middle of a pandemic stay at home order? First, read your Notice of Valuation. Exemptions applied to your account will be listed in the right-hand column of the 2020 Information window. Next, look on the back of the form to see a list of available exemptions and other tax-saving opportunities.
I have found two underutilized exemptions. First is the $2,000 Head of Household exemption. You neither need to be married nor have dependents for this exemption.
The $4,000 veteran’s exemption is often underutilized on two counts; the veteran does not apply for it and, in households where both spouses are veterans, only one has applied when both are eligible. That would give an $8,000 reduction of Taxable Value! Furthermore, that reduction can be applied, in part or whole, to any property owned by the veteran in New Mexico. For example, I have a friend who owns property in Bernalillo County where the tax rate is much higher than Los Alamos. He applied his tax exemption where it has the greatest savings, Bernalillo.
Contact information for my office is on the NOV. Do not hesitate to contact us if you have questions or need help applying for tax-savings. Although our office is closed to drop-in traffic, we are available by phone, (505) 662-8030, appointment, and email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, there are forms outside our Municipal Building office (and on the Assessor’s website). A drop box is just down the hall, which County Clerk Naomi Maestas is allowing us to share.
There is no incentive for the assessor’s office to overvalue or undervalue property. Not only do we want valuations to be correct, state law mandates that we be both current and correct. The process we use to value property follows international assessment standards. Those standards, for example, set an annual valuation target of 90 percent to to 110 percent of market value. Los Alamos consistently has been at approximately 97 percent.
New Mexico law requires that property be valued according to its status on January 1 of each year. That means that the 2020 property tax bill you will receive in early November from the treasurer (not the assessor) is based on the 2019 market value of your property with one exception: Increases in the assessed value of residential property cannot exceed the previous year’s value by more than 3 percent. This limitation does not apply to non-residential property, the portion of residential property that has been renovated in 2019, or residential property when ownership has changed in 2019.
No one should pay more property tax than what is required by law and property owners should also take advantage of every tax saving opportunity. To assure both, look closely at your NOV. The April 30 deadline is very near.