Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - More than 2.5 million people in New York State take advantage of the STAR tax rebate and if you're one of them, you'll need to reapply for it next year.
A majority of property taxes go to local school districts and 15 years ago, New York State instituted the STAR tax break, a program designed to help homeowners with school taxes.
For most, the program was a welcome relief, but for others, it was a way to scam the system.
“People might have duplicated this basic STAR exemption in more than one municipality. In the assessor's defense, they would have no way of knowing that,” said Teresa Frank with NYS Real Property Tax Services.
While the state provides the funding, local municipalities distribute it. That means some people could register and get reimbursements for more than one property in different areas.
Only your primary residence is eligible.
Now, everyone has to reapply to tighten the system.
“We are now going to tie social security numbers in with the registration process and that is a unique identifier,” Frank explained. “They won’t have to register ever again because with this unique identifier, the SSN, they can be sure nobody gets a duplicate exemption.”
The state will mail everyone letters explaining the process, which needs to be completed by December 31, 2013.
The letter will detail a website to use or a number to call and the State Office of Real Property Taxes will work to help people fill it out.
Central New York is included in the first group of mailings from Jefferson, Tioga, Broom and Cayuga, Oneida and Madison counties.
Reapplying will not affect this year's school taxes, even for new property owners, but it will go into effect for school taxes in 2014.
The reapplying process does not affect senior citizens and the enhanced star exemption.
If you wish to get started on the process early, you can reapply in person at the New York State Fair where a booth with computers will be set up at the Center of Progress Building.
You’ll need to have some basic information handy including the social security numbers of you and your spouse and your combined household income.