New York will open the re-registration period for the "STAR" property-tax rebate Monday for upstate homeowners, but Long Islanders will have to wait a bit longer.
The massive process of sending notifications to about 2.6 million homeowners will be carried out in stages, state Tax Department officials said. Notices will be sent to residents of Long Island, New York City and Westchester County between Sept. 16 and Oct. 4.
Regardless of locale, homeowners will have until Dec. 31 to apply for the rebate.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and state legislators passed a law requiring re-registration last spring, saying they were trying to reduce fraud. Too many people have been receiving improper STAR (School Tax Reduction) rebates for second homes. The deductions are intended for primary residencies only, they said.
Previously, local assessors had to find instances of STAR double dipping. Under the new law, the state will create a database that will make it easier to spot cheaters, officials said.
"Local assessors monitor Basic STAR in their communities, but do not have the ability to know if an individual is receiving STAR in any of the other 1,000 localities statewide," said state Tax Commissioner Thomas H. Mattox said in a statement. "This is the first registration in the STAR Program's 15-year history, and it will eliminate inappropriate and fraudulent exemptions."
The STAR program is open to owner-occupied, primary residences where the combined income of resident owners and their spouses is $500,000 or less. The average STAR benefit is $700.
Once the enrollment period begins for a region, residents will receive a letter containing a STAR "code" that will be used to register, said tax department spokesman Geoffrey Gloak. At this time, they also will be able to look up their code online.
Owners may use the code to re-register either online (www.tax.ny.gov) or via telephone (518-457-2036).
Senior citizens who are already enrolled in the "Enhanced STAR" program aren't affected by the new STAR requirement. However, they must continue to apply annually for Enhanced STAR or participate in the tax department's income verification program.
In February, the state will notify local assessors of any homeowners who didn't register or who aren't eligible. Homeowners deemed ineligible can ask for an administrative review.