Don’t rush out to re-register for STAR just yet

08/19/2013 3:01 PM |

A new state re-registration program to catch residents defrauding the STAR property tax break kicked off this week in parts of New York.

But North Fork residents don’t need to worry: the program won’t start in Suffolk County until the end of next month, when mailings with instructions reach property owners, town and state officials said.

The state’s Basic and Enhanced School Tax Relief (STAR) programs were enacted in August 1997 and were intended to reduce property taxes on the primary residences of New York residents.

But the state now believes many property owners are double-dipping or defrauding the program, whether intentionally or not, said Riverhead Assessor Laverne Tennenberg.

A state audit of 47 municipalities across the state — including Riverhead — revealed examples of fraud, such as residents getting the benefits even though their primary residences are out of state.

The re-registration drive is a mechanism to “weed out” those who are getting their breaks illicitly, Ms. Tennenberg said.

Residents who are currently getting Basic STAR — the lesser of the two levels of tax breaks — will be required to fill out questions either electronically or over the phone.

Those enrolled in the Enhanced STAR program, which serves residents over 65 years old who are making less than $81,900 a year, will not be required to re-register, Ms. Tennenberg said.

The state is rolling out the re-registration program to the 2.6 million people currently receiving STAR breaks in stages, she said.

The re-registration process started in parts of the state Monday, but inaccurate media reports have implied that Suffolk County residents can now begin to apply, she said.

The Town Assessor’s office has already seen some residents come in or call, asking how to re-register, she said.

“The towns are not administering this,” Ms. Tennenberg said.

Southold Town Assessor Robert Scott Jr. said his office had already received about 20 calls from residents as of Monday afternoon asking about the program.

Suffolk County’s 600,000 eligible properties will get notices in the last week of September and first week of October, state officials said.

“Basically, Suffolk County is going to be the last region in the state to get it,” Mr. Scott said.

The notices from the state will include a unique STAR code and instructions on how residents should participate. If residents have not received their code by the second week in October, they can call the state’s hotline at (518) 457-2036 to get more information.

Residents will have until December 31st to re-register, state officials said.

“There’ll be plenty of time to register,” Ms. Tennenberg said. “[Residents] should sit tight and not worry about getting the mailing.”

psquire@timesreview.com

STAR program