Think New Mexico News:
Sen. Bill Tallman (D-Albuquerque) has pre-filed a bill to repeal the state tax on Social Security income for 90 percent of New Mexico seniors and make up for the reduction in state revenue by increasing taxes on cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and other tobacco products.
The bill was developed by the nonpartisan think tank Think New Mexico, which recommended this reform in a 2019 policy report.
The pre-filed bill is designed to be revenue neutral to the state and to bring New Mexico’s taxes on seniors more in line with other states while reducing youth consumption of tobacco.
New Mexico is one of only 13 states that taxes Social Security income. It is a form of double taxation since New Mexicans pay income taxes on the money they pay into Social Security while they are working, and then they are taxed again on the benefits they receive after they retire. No other government benefits, like Medicare, Medicaid, TANF, or food stamps are taxed.
In the past decade, eight of the 13 states that tax Social Security benefits have significantly reduced those taxes, leaving New Mexico with the second heaviest tax on Social Security benefits in the nation. The tax on Social Security income costs the average New Mexico senior nearly $700 a year.
Sen. Tallman’s bill would exempt Social Security income from tax for all seniors who have total incomes of less than $72,000, or $124,000 for a married couple. Based on recent IRS data, this exemption would cover all but about the top 10 percent of wealthiest seniors in New Mexico.
The pre-filed bill repeals the tax on Social Security income in a revenue neutral way by increasing the taxes on cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and other tobacco products. Increasing those taxes would help reduce youth vaping, which has soared in recent years, increasing by 42 percent since 2015 according to the New Mexico Department of Health.
New Mexico currently ranks third highest in the nation for teen use of e-cigarettes, with one in three high school students vaping. New Mexico also ranks fifth highest in the nation for youth smoking. Increasing the cost of tobacco products is one of the most effective ways to curb teen smoking, because young people generally have less disposable income than adults.
The tobacco tax increases included in the pre-filed bill are similar to recommendations endorsed by the legislature’s interim Health and Human Services Committee.
“This legislation is a win-win package that puts money back into the pockets of middle class seniors while improving the long-term health of New Mexico’s young people,” Sen. Tallman said.
“The double tax on Social Security income is particularly burdensome for the more than 55,000 New Mexico grandparents who are raising their grandchildren, often on fixed incomes, while trying not to outlive their retirement savings,” Think New Mexico Executive Director Fred Nathan said.
More information is available at: www.thinknewmexico.org.