Q: I have been hearing a lot about the STAR exemption for the property taxes. Do I need to do something to continue to get this STAR exemption?
A: In order to answer this question correctly, I would need to know your age. Since I don't I will answer it two different ways.
The STAR exemption is a school property tax relief program. Up to this point, this has been an automatic benefit that all homeowners received. New legislation has changed this benefit. It is now a benefit that requires registration with the New York State Tax Department for those homeowners who are under age 65. If you are 65 years or older you can register for this STAR exemption the way you always have with your local assessor.
So let's review the Basic STAR, or the new changes to the exemption. First, you must own your own home and it must be your primary residence. Second, your income must be $500,000 or less annually (that is using your 2012 tax return and applies to the combined incomes of only the owners and the owners' spouses who reside at the property).
Once you have determined you are eligible, you must register with the New York State Tax Department. This can be done at the www.tax.ny.gov website. This needs to be completed this year before Dec. 31, 2013. This registration will give you the Basic STAR exemption in 2014 and subsequent years. You will not need to re-register in future years, as the Tax Department will determine and confirm your eligibility.
In order to do this registration process, you also must receive a letter in the mail explaining this registration process to you. This letter has an ID number which is used in the registration process. If you do not have this letter or have lost this letter, please contact the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance at 518-457-2036. They will help you determine why you did not receive this letter, or answer whatever other questions you have.
The website has some wonderful tools and they will help with many of your questions if you have access to the internet. I myself used it to do a lot of research for this article. In fact if you have lost your letter you can look up the ID number you need to do the online registration.
If you are unable to register online you must call the previously listed number to register over the phone.
If you fail to register for this exemption you will find that your property taxes will increase in the fall of 2014. This exemption can be applied for in the future if your situation changes. You can also register when and if you buy a new home or move to a different home in New York state.
If you are over age 65, you will continue to receive your Enhanced STAR benefit as you always have. You must apply annually by verifying your income or providing a copy of your annual tax returns to your local assessor's office. This process has not changed at all.
So if you are over age 65, you continue to work with your local assessor to receive the enhanced STAR exemption. "To qualify, seniors generally must be 65 years of age or older and meet certain income limitations and other requirements. For the 50 percent exemption, the law allows each county, city, town, village or school district to set the maximum income limit at any figure between $3,000 and $29,000."
So again, I will refer you to your local assessor as they will have pertinent information for your locality.
This law and the STAR exemption process were changed as "part of an initiative to protect New Yorkers against the costs of inappropriate or fraudulent STAR exemptions." This new process requires the STAR code and confirmation of the property address; the names and Social Security numbers of all owners of the property and their spouses; confirmation that this property is the primary residence of one of its owners; confirmation of the combined income being less than $500,000 per year; and that the resident owners do not receive any residency based tax exemption from another state.
Once this verification has been received by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, you will receive and continue to receive this discount in your property taxes each year.
Don't forget, and do this right away at www.tax.ny.gov or 1-518-457-2036. This will save you money in 2014.