Basic STAR recipients will now register online for tax break

To curb fraud, homeowners will now have to register to get school tax relief in 2014.

The New York State Tax Department has a new online STAR (School TAx Relief) Registration platform for homeowners currently receiving the Basic STAR property tax exemption.

The STAR Program provides 2.6 million homeowners with savings on their school property tax bills each year, but is available only for an individual’s or family’s primary residence. A tax department investigation showed some homeowners were receiving the exemption on more than one property.  

“This balanced approach protects the integrity of the STAR program and guards taxpayer dollars from those who seek to game the system,” said Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in a release from the tax department.  “The registration program provides an accessible, convenient, and secure way for qualified homeowners to retain their exemption.”

 “Local assessors monitor Basic STAR in their communities, but do not have the ability to know if an individual is receiving STAR in any of the other 1,000 localities statewide,” said Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Thomas H. Mattox in the release. “This is the first registration in the STAR Program’s 15-year history, and it will eliminate inappropriate and fraudulent exemptions.”

The tax department is mailing letters to all 2.6 million Basic STAR recipients, starting this week in central New York. The statewide mailing schedule is available online. The letter includes registration instructions for the department’s online application.  It also provides homeowners with a telephone number for registration or questions — 518-457-2036.

The deadline for completing the registration is Dec. 31, 2013.

The registration applies only to Basic STAR recipients; senior citizens receiving the Enhanced STAR exemption are not affected.  In order to continue receiving Enhanced STAR, seniors must continue to apply annually or participate in the Income Verification Program.  

Eligibility

The Basic STAR exemption is available for owner-occupied, primary residences where the combined income of resident owners and their spouses is $500,000 or less. Married couples with multiple residences are eligible to receive only one Basic STAR exemption.  

The average homeowner benefit as a result of Basic STAR is $700 annually. Statewide, total savings are nearly $1.9 billion each year. The Basic and Enhanced STAR exemptions are the only property tax exemptions reimbursed by New York State.

The registration program will affect Basic STAR exemptions for 2014 and beyond; it does not affect 2013 exemptions. Homeowners will not have to re-register every year — based on the information provided in the registration process, the tax department will monitor homeowners’ eligibility in future years.

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