Op-Ed: A STAR of a tax break

Comptroller John C. Liu

If you own a house, co-op, or condominium in New York City, there’s something I want you to do right away: register for the STAR exemption.

In all likelihood, you’re probably already benefitting from STAR. More than 564,000 homeowners in New York City participate in what’s called “Basic STAR.” Last year, these homeowners received an average property tax break of $280 each. While it’s not a huge amount, it’s still money in your pocket.

But this year, the state is requiring everyone to register for STAR in order to receive the exemption. And I don’t want any homeowner in New York City to lose out.

The state created STAR in 1997 to give real estate holders a small break on the taxes they pay on their primary residence. The acronym comes from “School Tax Relief” because most New York State property taxes are spent on local public schools.

The state needs to ensure that second and third homes are not unfairly receiving the exemption. A study last year by the State Department of Tax and Finance found that thousands of property owners were improperly receiving more than one exemption.

To verify the accuracy of its primary homeowner data base, the State is asking all property holders to register for Basic STAR in order to continue receiving the break.

Only those with annual household incomes of under $500,000 are eligible to participate in Basic STAR. There is another version—“Enhanced STAR” for seniors—but it isn’t part of the current registration drive.

If you’ve never received the exemption in the past or are a new homeowner in New York City, start with the NYC Department of Finance, at nyc.gov/finance or by calling 3-1-1.

For past participants, registration is easy and can be handled completely online by going to www.tax.ny.gov. Those without Internet access can register by phone by calling 518-457-2036.

If you’ve been benefitting from Basic STAR, you must register with the State Department of Tax and Finance in order to continue receiving the tax break. Don’t leave money on the table!

The Basic STAR exemption saved 2.6 million owners of houses, condominiums, and co-operative apartments in New York State a total of $1.9 billion last year. But you have to be registered to receive the break!

The registration process began in August, and letters about it began arriving in New York City mailboxes in September. But you don’t have to wait to receive your letter to participate. The deadline to be included is the end of this calendar year: December 31.

The good news is you won’t have to re-register every year. Once the process is done, the Tax Department will use the information to review homeowners’ eligibility in future years.

So get on the phone or visit the New York State Department of Tax and Finance website to ensure your tax break for 2014 and beyond.

Let’s keep all of the stars of New York City shining.

John C. Liu is the Comptroller of the City of New York




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