Senior citizens receiving the Enhanced STAR property-tax break will have to enroll in an income-verification program this year to ensure they get the lucrative rebate.
A new law this year requires all property owners age 65 and over who are eligible for Enhanced STAR to complete a form with their local tax assessor to verify their income.
If the property owner has already done so in recent years, they don't have to do it again. But if they haven't completed the form, they need to do so this year, the state Department of Taxation and Finance said.
After the form is completed once, they won't need to do it every year, the agency said.
In the first year, the assessor will verify an applicant's eligibility based on the income information provided.
Then in the following years, the state tax department will independently verify enrollees' incomes, meaning Enhanced STAR recipients will not need to renew their exemption each year and will not have to provide copies of tax returns to the local local assessor.
“This change applies only to seniors 65 or older applying for the Enhanced STAR exemption or those who have the exemption included in their property tax bills,” acting tax commissioner Nonie Manion said in a statement.
“This doesn’t affect those who receive a check for this exemption because we already verify their income eligibility.”
New York spends $3 billion a year on the STAR program, the most expensive property-tax-rebate program in the nation started in the mid-1990s.
The program offsets a portion of homeowners' school taxes — which are among the highest in the country.
There are two types of STAR programs.
Basic STAR is for homeowners' primary residence if their household income is less than $500,000.
The average tax break is about $790 a year, while the average Enhanced STAR was about $1,400 for eligible seniors.
Enhanced STAR is for homeowners age 65 and older with incomes of $86,300 or less.
About 650,000 New Yorkers receive Enhanced STAR every year, while there are 2.6 million Basic STAR recipients.
Since the early 2000s, Enhanced STAR receipts could enroll in the income-verification program so they didn't have to prove their incomes each year to the assessor's office.
In most parts of New York, the STAR enrollment needs to be done by March 1 so the benefit can be taken off school property taxes due by Sept. 30.
Now the income-verification form needs to be completed to keep getting the benefit —but only if a homeowner hadn't already done so.
If you already receive the Enhanced STAR exemption but are not enrolled in the income-verification program, you must renew your application and fill out a separate form.
The renewal form is RP-425-Rnw. The supplement form to enter the income-verification program is RP-425-IVP.
There is also another property-tax exemption program for some low-income senior citizens.
The "senior citizens exemption" covers a portion of school and municipal taxes and is available for homeowners age 65 or older and for incomes between $3,000 and $29,000 a year, depending on what each taxing entity decides.
In the past, older adults who qualified for the program were automatically granted the Enhanced STAR exemption.
But this year, eligible homeowners must apply separately for each.
For Basic STAR, new homeowners also need to apply with the state tax department.
Those homeowners will receive a check each fall for their STAR break, rather than an upfront savings that directly comes off school-tax bills for existing homeowners.
That registration can be done at www.tax.ny.gov/pit/property/star/default.htm
The forms require the Social Security numbers of all property owners and proof of income.
The deadline for applications is March 1 in most communities, the tax department said.
But the deadline is different in some parts of New York.
In Westchester County towns, for example, the deadline is either May 1 or June 1.
In Nassau County, it is Jan. 2, while in the villages of Bronxville and Kiryas Joel in Orange County, it is Jan. 1.