Changes to the Administration of the Enhanced STAR exemption draws criticism from the New York State Assessors’ Association.
Without input from the New York State Assessors’ Association, Governor Cuomo’s 2018 budget made it mandatory to register on-line with New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, not your local assessor, to file the application for the Enhanced STAR property tax exemption.
The New York Enhanced STAR property exemption is available to homeowners for their primary residences who are 65 years or older and earn a combined household income of no more than $86,300 for the 2019/2020 school year. The home must be your primary residence. You can have only one primary residence. Your primary residence can include houses, condominiums, cooperative apartments, mobile homes, and farm houses. This property tax exemption applies only to school district taxes, which are typically the majority of your property tax bill.
Governor Cuomo’s 2018 budget mandates participation in the Income Verification Program “IVP”, which was previously a voluntary program. If a senior citizen files a personal income tax return, the IVP permits senior citizens who are reapplying for the Enhanced STAR exemption to authorize the assessor to have the Department of Taxation and Finance automatically verify their income in subsequent years. One of the goals of mandatory participation in the IVP is to allow the Department of Taxation and Finance to weed out senior citizens ineligible for the exemption because they either have income higher than the allowable limit, or are receiving the exemption for two or more homes. Under the current situation, a senior could present a phony tax return with their application to an Assessor who cannot attest to the veracity of the document. Utilizing a senior citizen’s social security number, the IVP allows the Department of Taxation and Finance to enter social security number into a state database to confirm their income.
One of the issues with mandatory participation in the IVP is that not all senior citizens file tax returns. In 2017, if you were 65 years or older and earned less than $10,399, you did not have to file a tax return. Under the mandatory IVP, senior citizens who don’t file tax returns will have to complete an income worksheet and submit it to the Department of Taxation and Finance.
The New York State Assessors’ Association is “[v]ehemently opposed to making IVP mandatory” for many reasons. Prior to mandating participation in the IVP, a senior citizen could go to their local assessor’s office for assistance with the application process. I have heard many stories of local assessors assisting senior citizens with both the Enhanced STAR application and the senior citizen exemption application. The assessor’s assistance included making copies, reviewing monthly checking account statements to confirm income, send reminder notices, make phone calls, and sometimes even make house visits so a senior citizen does not miss the application deadline. In fact, a senior recently praised her local Town of New Windsor Assessor, Todd Wiley, and his staff for their patience and assistance with her STAR Exemption application.
When you apply or reapply for the Enhanced Star exemption with your assessor, you must submit Form RP-425IVP and either Form RP-426-E or Form RP-426-Rnw and also provide the assessor with Form RP-425 Wkst (income for STAR purposes worksheet). The first year the assessor will determine if your income meets the threshold to qualify for the exemption. After year one, the Department of Taxation and Finance will review your income annually using your social security number. Because income eligibility for the Enhanced STAR exemption is the total income of all property owners, the exemption application will need to include the social security number of both owners to verify the combined owner income. Provided you remain eligible for the exemption, you will not need to reapply every year for the Enhanced Star exemption since the Department of Taxation and Finance can verify your income using the state’s database and your social security number. If you were previously receiving the senior citizens exemption, under the new IVP, you are now required to apply for the Enhanced STAR and senior citizens exemptions separately. Prior to the IVP a senior citizen who qualified for both exemptions could apply using the same application. If you are applying for the senior citizens exemption you need to reapply annually. To apply for the senior citizens exemption, file form RP-467 is you are a first time applicant, and form RP-467Rnw is you are renewing your application.
Despite the fact that the IVP takes away the administration of the Enhanced STAR exemption, your local assessor is still a resource and can answer any questions you have.
This is not intended to be legal advice. You should contact an attorney for advice regarding your particular specific situation.