View from the Assembly: Basic STAR applicants must reapply

By Rep. Will Barclay

In this year’s state budget, changes were made to the STAR program that requires Basic STAR recipients to re-register.

It became clear that the state needed to make changes to the program after a comptroller’s audit found some property owners were abusing the system. By requiring people to reapply, the state can weed out any duplicate applications and stop people from trying to double dip.

STAR stands for School Tax Relief program. It was first enacted in 1999 by then-Gov. George Pataki.

Here is how it works: The first $30,000 of an owner-occupied residence is tax exempt for those who qualify. The state then reimburses school districts the equivalent of the property tax exemption. These funds are paid annually in the form of school aid through the state budget. This year’s budget provided $3.4 billion for the program.

STAR is a direct property tax savings for homeowners. It’s a great program and saves people anywhere between $300 and $800 per year, according to the New York State Tax and Finance website’s data.

To qualify, homeowners need to make less than $500,000 and live in the home. The reason the state is requiring homeowners to reapply is due  fraud that occurred within the system.

In some cases, people with two properties in two municipalities were receiving the STAR exemption twice. In order to prevent this type of fraud, the state is requiring applicants to re-register in order to cross reference all owner-occupied properties that qualify.

None of these changes applies to recipients of Enhanced STAR.  Enhanced STAR is essentially the STAR program for seniors.  It differs in that it provides approximately double the savings compared to Basic STAR.

Homeowners who are 65 and older and whose income does not exceed $81,900 are eligible for Enhanced STAR. Those who participate in Enhanced STAR do not need to reapply because the state uses a different application for Enhanced STAR and recipients under this program already verify their information with the state annually.

The fastest way for homeowners to re-register for Basic STAR is through the Tax Department’s website at tax.ny.gov.

All you need is the property owner(s) social security number(s), and the STAR code. If you don’t know your STAR code, there is a convenient “look up” page that will provide visitors with their unique STAR code.

Once completed, applicants can print their application, which contains a confirmation code, and file with their records.

Residents may also call the tax department at 518-457-2036 and an operator will assist callers.

The state is expected to send out a mailing with instructions as well. At this time, the state is not providing a paper option to re-register.

This is a one-time requirement and will not need to be repeated each year. Those who have further questions about the program, also may contact their local assessor.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, N.Y. 13069, by email at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or by calling 598-5185. You may also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.

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