More than half of the eligible homeowners in the state have registered for their Basic STAR exemption (School Tax Relief) and Putnam County is leading the way in the Lower Hudson Valley with 61 percent of eligible property owners registered, according to the state Department of Taxation and Finance. The percentage was 56 percent in Rockland and just 31 percent in Westchester.
Westchester, whose reminder letters were sent out later than many other counties, has the lowest response rate in the state.
The Basic STAR exemption program was established 15 years ago, but everyone has to register with the state by Dec. 31 as part of an anti-fraud measure led by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Homeowners who earn below $500,000 a year can claim a STAR exemption, but only on their primary residence. More than 2.6 million homeowners receive STAR exemptions, which saves them an average of $700 a year.
The Tax Department last year identified thousands of property owners who were receiving more than one STAR exemption on multiple properties. Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe announced yesterday that he has filed criminal charges against three individuals who illegally obtained a STAR tax exemption and failed to renounce it during an amnesty program.
“More than 1.3 million homeowners have used our fast and easy registration process to ensure they don’t lose their STAR exemptions,” Thomas H. Mattox, commissioner of taxation and finance, said in a statement. “If you haven’t registered yet, we encourage you to register today.”
These are the specifics on how many current STAR recipients in the Lower Hudson Valley have registered with the state:
— Putnam County: 13,807 of 22,525
— Rockland County: 30,438 of 54,100
— Westchester County: 48,719 of 154,865
Westchester has the fifth highest number of STAR exemption recipients, after Suffolk (292,810), Nassau (271,629), Queens (212,756) and Erie (174,494).
The registration requirement doesn’t apply to recipients of Enhanced STAR, a program for senior citizens whose income is below $81,900 a year. They are exempt from school taxes on the first $63,300 of the full value of a home.
The state’s cost for STAR exemptions increased from $582 million in 1999 to $3.2 billion in 2011, and it could exceed $3.7 billion by 2016, an audit by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said.