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November 8, 2013

State: Beware of STAR scams

The Daily Star

---- — One thing is certain whenever there is a government program that involves widespread participation and even a little uncertainty about what might be required to sign up for it.

There will be unscrupulous people who will try to take financial advantage of innocent people through misinformation and scams.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo put out a statement Thursday warning taxpayers to beware of solicitations offering a fee-based service to apply for the School Tax Relief (STAR) property tax exemption.

The truth is that all homeowners can apply for free.

The way the scams work is that new homeowners have received letters offering to enroll them in the STAR Program for a substantial fee, according to a media release from the governor’s office.

The fee is equivalent to the full amount of the taxpayers’ first year savings — which averages $700 statewide and can be as high as $3,000 for senior citizens in the Lower Hudson Valley and on Long Island.

“New Yorkers should not be fooled: registration to the STAR Program is free, convenient, and provides taxpayers with hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars in property tax relief each year,” Cuomo said in the release. “I encourage any homeowner not receiving a STAR exemption to apply on their own and avoid disingenuous schemes that seek to charge you for the tax relief that is rightfully yours.”

STAR exemptions are the only New York state-funded property tax exemptions. There are two STAR exemptions: Basic STAR for homeowners with incomes under $500,000, and Enhanced STAR for senior citizens with incomes under $81,900. The deadline to register for the STAR Program is Dec. 31.

To apply for a STAR exemption outside of New York City, homeowners should submit an application to their local assessor’s office.

Homeowners who are already receiving the Basic STAR exemption are required to register with New York State Tax Department this year.

To be eligible for the STAR Program, the property must be the primary residence of the owners. In addition to other illegalities discovered by a Tax Department study last year, thousands of owners of multiple properties were receiving more than one STAR exemption.

Cuomo’s office reports that more than 60 percent of the 2.6 million Basic STAR recipients have registered for their exemptions. Online registration takes less than four minutes and can be done from the Tax Department’s website. Homeowners without Internet access should call 518-457-2036 to register.

Apply online To register for STAR online, visit