In 2018, United Way tested a new pilot program. NM Legal Aid’s Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) received a grant in late January to hire four interns to work 20 hours per week at two Tax Help New Mexico sites. NM Legal Aid trained these interns to recognize potential legal issues.
Over the course of the program, the interns provided financial education and budgeting advice to 1,685 residents as they waited to file their taxes. The interns also referred 60 taxpayers to NM Legal Aid. Specific issues included termination and reduction of Medicaid and disability benefits, wrongful eviction, loss of Section 8 housing vouchers and garnishment of wages. Many of these legal issues had been going on for years. Those referred to NM Legal Aid were grateful to talk with an attorney and finally work toward some sort of resolution.
During the pilot program, a couple was referred to NM Legal Aid from a Tax Help site. They had received a Notice of Deficiency for about $2,000 in tax liability with a deadline to file a petition with the U.S. Tax Court two days later – the following Monday. If this deadline was not met, the clients would lose the chance to challenge their liability. The LITC Director prepared the petition on that Monday and filed it with the Court. The LITC will continue to represent these taxpayers before the U. S. Tax Court as their case progresses.