Homeowners Will Have To Re-Register For STAR Rebates To Help Combat Fraud

More changes are on their way for the School Tax Relief, or STAR, program.

Later this year, New York will begin to require homeowners to re-register for their STAR rebates in an effort to reduce the fraud that was found in a recent audit.

“This move is in direct relation to the audit that we had done,” said Randy Holcomb, assessor. “Even though the fraud wasn’t a problem in Chautauqua County, it is a problem elsewhere, so the entire state is going to have to go along with this.”

Holcomb stressed, however, that this new program will not affect any STAR exemptions for 2013, and that all of those funds are secure.

Every homeowner who is currently receiving a STAR rebate will have to apply in the future through the New York state Department of Tax and Finance.

“The residents are going to be given what I believe is called a property identification number, which should be sent to everyone currently registered for the STAR program,” said Holcomb. “They’ll have to reapply with that number later this year to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.”

According to Holcomb, the reapplication process for basic STAR exemptions will begin later this year and continue through April 1, 2014. New Yorkers age 65 and older who are eligible for the enhanced STAR exemption should continue to reapply once a year by March 1. The program reform comes as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget and was spurred by the findings of an audit of 6,500 parcels statewide, which revealed that nearly 20 percent of the property owners were improperly receiving STAR benefits.

“This budget includes rigorous new oversight of the STAR Program that will root out double dippers, break down the silos that have allowed this type of abuse to occur in the first place, and protect taxpayers,” Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said.

Penalties for filing false statements range from $100 to $2,500, and an additional $500 processing fee would be imposed on anyone committing fraud.

“The new program could possibly be problematic if people don’t understand what they need to do, but hopefully that won’t be the case,” said Holcomb.