As part of an anti-fraud system, the more than 2.6 million property taxpayers who receive the School Tax Relief — STAR — exemption will have to reapply online or by phone by Dec. 31, Gannett’s Albany Bureau reports.
In the coming weeks, homeowners will receive a letter with instructions on how to reapply for the program. They will need to verify their salaries, Social Security numbers and primary residence.
The initiative, approved as part of the state budget last March, will seek to stop some property owners from claiming the tax breaks on multiple homes. An audit in March found widespread abuse of the STAR program, and the state is hoping to save at least $1 million a year after going through the process.
“By the state having a role in confirming that each homeowner receives only one STAR exemption and that it’s on their primary residence, we can ensure that fraud and waste are eliminated,” said Geoffrey Gloak, a spokesman for the state Department of Taxation and Finance.
Enacted in 1998, the STAR program provides a partial exemption from school taxes for most homeowners with incomes less than $500,000 on their primary residence. The state’s enhanced STAR program provides an additional benefit for senior citizens with incomes of $81,900 or less.
The registration will not affect this year’s tax bills, nor will it affect enhanced STAR. Seniors are required to register every year to receive the enhanced STAR exemption. About 650,000 seniors receive enhance STAR, costing the state about $840 million.
New York has among the highest property taxes in the nation, and the program funded by the state aims to blunt some of the pain. In 2012, homeowners saved on average $700 through STAR and $1,290 for enhanced STAR.
Local assessors said they expect an influx of calls and concerns from taxpayers about the new registration process – even though it’s being run by the state.
The official details of the program are to be released later this month. For more information, call 518-457-2036 or visit this page.