By nearly any standard, 80-year-old Vivian Martin is a model citizen.
She has never--ever--missed an opportunity to vote. Her modest west Phoenix home is immaculate, from the green lawn to the autumn-themed pumpkin centerpiece in the dining room. She's genteel and alert, although osteoporosis sometimes limits her mobility.
And for the past 39 years, Martin had never been late in filing her state and federal tax forms--until April 17 of this year, that is.
That's when Vivian Martin's model-citizen status changed.
She filed a routine property-tax-credit form two days late.
Despite pleas for assistance from Martin and from two state legislators, the Arizona Department of Revenue hasn't budged, refusing even to grant her a hearing on the matter.
Martin's refund only comes to about $400, and she wants the money so that she can pay her 1996 property taxes, which were due October 1.
Department of Revenue officials did not return repeated telephone calls from New Times.
Martin, who subsists on Social Security checks, has driven downtown to file her property-tax-credit claim form at the Department of Revenue for the past eight years, since her husband died. She's always received a refund on her property taxes.
The property-tax credit, called the 140 PTC, is offered under state law to low-income, elderly Arizona residents. If you meet the criteria, the only other requirement is to file the claim form by April 15.
But Martin was suffering from a bout of high blood pressure last April when her claim form was due. She was afraid to drive, and didn't recall that the form was due until the deadline had passed.
She recalls, "When I went to fill out my papers, I said, 'Oh, shoot. I'm one day late.'"
Martin told her grandson, who advised her, "'Just go ahead and mail it. They'll probably knock you a little bit.'
"But they took it all away," she says. "I thought that was very uncaring."
So did state Senator Mary Hartley and Representative Kathi Foster, who represent District 20, where Martin lives. Hartley wrote and called Department of Revenue officials, asking that Martin be allowed to appeal. But Hartley's requests were met with a firm "no."
Bea Casey, a special assistant to DOR's acting director Paul Waddell, wrote to Hartley, explaining that state law required that the 140 PTC be filed on April 15, unless an extension has been previously requested.
Martin observes that if she'd had the chance to file for an extension, she would have just gone ahead and filed the 140 PTC itself.
Casey wrote, "The department recognizes that the filers of 140 PTCs are persons over 65 years of age and that the granting of such a refund is an important part of their income; however, this can only take place within the authorities granted by law which clearly requires that a timely filing take place."
"Give me a break!" Foster says, shuffling through the correspondence between the legislators and DOR. "This is not a person who is trying to shaft anyone."
DOR reports that 22,111 filers were granted refunds totaling nearly $6.4 million during the past fiscal year.
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Martin wants to know how many filers weren't granted their refunds, because they were a day or two late.
"I'm sure that there's other people my age that have had this kind of thing happen to them," she says.
"I call it cheating.