New Mexico county tax assessors attended a two-day workshop in Socorro County on March 28 and 29.
Russell Huffman | El Defensor Chieftain

The 33 New Mexico county tax assessors attended a two-day workshop covering a range of tax topics last week at the Socorro Convention Center. This year, they face new challenges brought about by tax regulations that haven’t entirely caught up to state law regarding cannabis.

“Recreational cannabis use is a new industry that is starting up, which means that we’re starting to have dispensaries, we’re starting to have growers, and so we need to have some uniformity because the regulations haven’t really caught up with that state law yet,” Bernalillo County Tax Assessor Damian Lara said.

As vice-chair of the New Mexico Counties Assessors’ Affiliate, Damian Lara explains that assessors are working toward creating a consensus and want uniformity when approaching taxation values.

“We want to ensure that the way that your assessor, Julie (Griego), values growers in Socorro County is the same way as the assessor in Taos County and so on,” Lara said.

“Are we valuing this as a grower, an agricultural product based on the businesses’ capacity to produce this product? Are we valuing it as a business personal property because it’s got manufacturing equipment when they’re not growing cannabis out of the ground, but they’re growing it in warehouses, or they’re making clones?”

Socorro County Tax Assessor Julie Griego

Cannabis might be the most unique product New Mexico’s tax assessors have ever dealt with because of its many uses and the businesses involved in getting it from seed or clone to market. Depending on an operation’s size and business plan, there’s farming and harvesting, processing, deriving oils, baking products, clothing and accessory manufacturing, edibles, infusions, soda and the plant’s raw flower.

So is an operation farming, manufacturing, retail or something else?

“These are the kinds of questions that we discuss. We refer back to the statute. We refer back to the regulations, and then we have a discussion on how we feel, or what we know based on our experiences and or similar experience, like when they were doing right when they had hemp,” Luna said.

This is the third year that Socorro has hosted the State Assessor’s workshop, and Socorro County Tax Assessor Julie Griego knows there is always something new to learn.

The Socorro meetings have a strong turnout, which Griego credits to the county’s central location. The meetings are especially good for new assessors, she said.

“But even for us (long-term assessors)—I have been with the assessor’s office for 26 or 27 years—you just learn so much because one county might be doing something, and maybe you don’t know how to ask that question. It’s a lot of talking with each other and getting uniformity with what other counties are doing”.

Socorro County’s notice of values should have started hitting mailboxes this past weekend, and property owners have 30 days to review those values. As Griego explains, you need to look at the notice carefully and check all of it.

“Look at the notice and make sure your address and the names are correct. Make sure your value is where you think it should be. You’ll have last year’s value on it, and it will tell you what you paid last year,” Griego said. “Then there’s a little formula where you could put this year’s value, and it’s more or less going to tell you what your taxes are based off of last year’s tax rate.”

Because the tax assessor’s office is constantly looking to update its records, there might be a structure that appears on this year’s tax assessment that hasn’t been there in the past.

“We encourage everybody to come in and talk to us, because you might have an exemption you’re not claiming that you might need to put on there. We can talk about your questions on how to read the assessment, and we’ll explain it to you. We’re a small community, and we will help you as much as possible,” Griego said.