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State working to reform STAR program

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Homeowners in Western New York should have received a letter in recent days urging them to register for the Basic STAR program. The Cuomo administration calls it an effort to cut fraud and save taxpayer dollars.

The STAR program has been around for about 15 years. But in order to continue receiving a break on school taxes, homeowners must now register for Basic STAR with the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.

Spokesperson Geoff Gloak says a recent study found thousands of homeowners were receiving more than one exemption.

"Assessors don't have the ability to know if a homeowner is receiving STAR in another community. So that's why the STAR registration program at the state level with the tax department will enable us to protect taxpayers from fraud and waste in the program."
 
Gloak says if one in a hundred Basic STAR registrations is inappropriate, taxpayers could save $18 million a year.

To qualify, a home must be a primary residence where the combined income of the resident owner and their spouse is a $500,000 or less.

"The Basic STAR program saves the typical homeowner statewide $700 a year on their school tax bill," Gloak says. 
 
Registering with the tax department only applies to Basic STAR for 2014 and beyond.

The deadline is December 31, but homeowners are encouraged to sign up by telephone or online as soon as possible.