Fraud crackdown brings more paperwork
An effort by New York State to crack down on fraud could cause headaches for law-abiding homeowners who are just looking for a small tax break from their government.
Property owners who are enrolled in the state’s School Tax Relief Program, known as STAR, will be receiving notices in the mail from the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance within the next few days, if they haven’t already, informing them that they are required to re-register for the program or risk being tossed off the rolls.
State Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn) is so concerned about the possibility of homeowners being left out in the cold that he issued a statement urging residents to pay attention to the state notice when it arrives in their mailboxes.
The letter will include a personalized code that homeowners will need to register on-line or over the phone. The registration process will simply require homeowners to provide some basic information to confirm their eligibility for the STAR program.
“It is imperative that all recipients of Basic Star register with the State of New York or risk losing this vital benefit,” Golden said.
The STAR program is designed to give tax relief to property owners, according to New York City’s official website, which offers information on the state program and states that homeowners with an income of $500,000 a year or less are eligible for a Basic STAR exemption. The average tax deduction is $280. Senior citizens and low income homeowners are eligible to apply for the state’s Enhanced STAR program, which offers a larger tax break.
Under the rules, the property in question must be the primary residence the owner. Married couples owning more than one property can only have STAR on one property unless they are divorced or legally separated and can provide documentation to support their claim, according to the city’s website.
The state was making people re-register for the program to cut down on the possibility of fraud, according to Golden.
“A recent state comptroller’s report showed that taxpayers are being cheated out of tens of millions of dollars every year by individuals who are fraudulently obtaining STAR exemptions for their property. This statewide accountability effort is being undertaken to weed out that abuse,” Golden said.
“Most homeowners are doing the right thing, but when someone takes advantage of the system everyone else has to pay more in school taxes. That’s not fair or legal,” Golden said.
This is a one-time process, according to Golden. Basic STAR recipients will not need to re-register every year, he said.
Senior citizens who receive the Enhanced STAR exemption are not affected by the new registration requirement and nothing will change for them. Questions about the registration process can be asked by calling the Dept. of Taxation and Finance at 518-457-2036 or by visiting tax.ny.gov.