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State begins sending out STAR exemption forms

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The state Department of Taxation and Finance has started alerting homeowners that they will have to register anew to keep receiving a STAR property tax exemption.

But the state is making registration a snap, the tax department says, by letting property owners register either online or by phone.

The first $30,000 of the full value of a home where the resident owner and spouse have combined income of less than $500,000 is exempt from school property taxes on owner-occupied, primary residences. According to a news release from the department, the average savings to taxpayers is $700. This year, 2.6 million homeowners collectively will save $1.9 billion in taxes.

This is the first year in the 15-year-old program that the exemptions must be registered directly with the state. The change was made, according to the department release, to keep people from improperly registering multiple properties for the exemption. Local registration didn’t allow officials in one county to determine whether property owners also were registered for the exemption in another county. Ending fraudulent duplicate registrations is expected to save the state millions, the department estimates.

The department’s release said that registration will not be required every year. Based on the initial registration, the department will monitor eligibility in future years using the database the system creates.

In the north country, property owners who already receive the Basic STAR exemption in Jefferson, Lewis and Oswego counties can expect to receive letters from the state this week. In St. Lawrence and Franklin counties, letters will go out between Sept. 3 and 6.

The letters will provide a website address for online registration and a phone number, 1-(518)-457-2036, for registration or questions about the program. There is also an online demonstration to give assistance in filling out the registration.

Property owners who do not receive the exemption will not receive a letter, but can still use the website or telephone number to register for future years.

Senior citizens receiving Enhanced STAR exemptions are not affected by the change. That program already requires annual registration, or participation in the department’s income verification program. Enhanced STAR exempts the first $63,300 of the full value of a home from school taxes, as of 2013-14, on school tax bills for property owners over 65 whose combined adjusted income does not exceed $81,900.

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