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Many Eligible NYC Homeowners Don’t Apply For School Tax Relief Exemption

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More than 200,000 homeowners across the city could be leaving $700 on the table because they are not registering for New York State’s STAR exemption. Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following Money Matters report.

The New York State STAR exemption, which stands for School Tax Relief, has been around since 1999. Under the program, eligible homeowners receive a credit against their property tax bill to the average tune of $700 a year. Last year, some 2.7 million homeowners claimed the exemption, the rules for which are pretty straightforward.

“If you own your home and you use it as your primary residence and your cumulative income is less than $500,000 you'll qualify,” said John Wolham of the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.

The problem is when state officials took a closer look at the books, not everyone claiming the exemption actually met the criteria.

“Work that the department had done recently suggested that there are some instances where property owners may be claiming more than one exemption,” said Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Thomas H. Mattox.

This means they either owned and were claiming the exemption on more than one property in the state or they owned property in another state for which they were receiving a similar residency-based exemption. In order to save the state money and ensure that everyone who is eligible is receiving the credit, the state has launched a one-time registration process. So far, more than 2 million residents have responded.

“Part of that has to do with the fact the process is straightforward and so easy to do,” Mattox said.

In order to register, homeowners need to provide some basic information: address, social security numbers for any owners of record and their resident spouses and a STAR code.

That code should have been mailed to all homeowners, but it is easy to look up.

Following the basic information, there are a few simple yes or no questions and that's it.

Mattox says the whole thing should take less than five minutes and even better, it’s a one-time process.

“This is one time process,” Mattox said. “We don't anticipate needing to re-register folks in this way, certainly not in the near future.

This registration is only for the Basic STAR exemption. It does not affect seniors who receive the Enhanced Star exemption. Registration has varied across the state with 90 percent of eligible homeowners registered in Saratoga but only 40 percent in New York City. The deadline is December 31.

To register, go to www.tax.ny.gov or call 518-457-2036.

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