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September 16, 2013 - John Stack
This is my first blog PSA. This is about re-registering for your STAR exemption. If you own a house in New York, and it is your primary residence, there is a good chance you are receiving a benefit from the STAR program (School TAx Relief). This program started around 1999. You had to have signed up for it at some point. If you do not have a STAR exemption, and believe you may be eligible, please contact your local assessor’s office. The STAR exemption subtracts a certain amount of assessed value from your property’s overall assessed value (generally 30,000) to lower your taxable assessment for school tax purposes. There are approximately 2.6 million STAR exemptions in New York, with the State picking up a couple billion dollars a year for taxpayers. Unfortunately, some of these exemptions are not valid. For a variety of reasons, some people have STAR exemptions on more than one property. By law, you can only receive one STAR exemption per person, or married couple (unless you are legally separated). Some things slip through the crack though. You may have owned and lived in a home for years, with a STAR exemption, and bought a new home. The old home may still have a STAR exemption on it, and unless you notify the assessor, it will probably stay on (illegally). Or, there may have been a number of ither innocent, or not so innocent reasons you have multiple STAR exemptions. Also, if you receive a residential based exemption in another state, you are not allowed a second one in NY. Florida is the one state that has some very strong Homestead Exemption value, and have also been extremely aggressive in tracking down non-primary home owners claiming the exemption there. NY came late to this party. Recently, an audit was done, and found many persons seemingly with multiple STAR exemptions. Now, we are doing something about it.
Most likely in the last week or so, if you are a homeowner, you received a letter from NYS Tax and Finance addressed to “ Property Owners”. Do not throw this away! This is very important for you to keep your exemption! In this letter is an explanation on how to re-register for your Basic STAR exemption. NYS is using this opportunity to cross check all owners of property receiving STAR exemptions via social security number to cut down on fraud. The method to re-register is very simple. There is a website for NYS Tax and Finance mentioned in the mailer (see on side) of where to go. On this there is a box on far right site very prominently to click on to re-register. In your letter, there is a specific STAR code you can punch in. This will bring up your property. Verify it is your’s, and follow the directions. You will need to add every property owner, their social security numbers, and if they are a primary resident, and that you receive no other residential based exemptions on any other property, and that you make less than $500,000 AGI. Its that easy. It shouldn’t take 5 minutes if you have all the names and social security numbers handy. I will be giving a presentation at the Saranac lake school board meeting on Wednesday Sept 18th, at 6:30 PM to go over this process, and I will also be available to help register people if they would like. Unfortunately, for some, there are only 2 ways to register – via the website, and via calling the STAR hotline - 518-457-2036. There will be no paper forms, but if you have questions, concerns, whatever – please call this number. Finally, if you receive the Senior Enhanced STAR, this does not apply to you. Your Senior STAR will be administered the same way it always has, as it already checks your income and social security numbers.
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