Tax-Relief Laggards Abound

Only about 51 percent of the 3,000 East Hampton property owners eligible for the exemption have responded to a letter sent out by the state in October

    With a Dec. 31 deadline looming, East Hampton Town taxpayers are lagging behind other New Yorkers in registering, as required by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, to keep their School Tax Relief, or STAR, exemption.

    According to Jeanne Nielsen, senior East Hampton Town assessor, only about 51 percent of the 3,000 East Hampton property owners eligible for the exemption have responded to a letter sent out by the state in October informing them of the need to register and offering directions on how to do so either online or by telephone.

    Statewide, the average has been closer to 70 percent, she said.

    Ms. Nielsen stressed that the registration process is being handled by the state, not the town assessor’s office. It is also the first time since the program was established more than a decade ago that property owners have been required to register again.

    Senior citizens who are receiving the enhanced STAR exemption do not have to do anything to continue receiving their tax break.

    “They are looking for people who might be double-dipping with two houses or who may not meet the income requirements,” Ms. Nielsen said in explaining why the state is requiring property owners to sign up to continue receiving their STAR exemption.

    She said that East Hampton residents were probably the last ones in the state to receive the letters informing them of the need to register, but that she was still at a loss as to why so few had responded. “Maybe people are procrastinating or they threw the mail out,” she said. The state will send out one more reminder, and Ms. Nielsen asked that all taxpayers take a few minutes to complete the process.

    If not, they will lose the exemption when they get their 2014 property tax bills late next year and will be required to reapply for it.

    The size of the exemption, which excludes the first $30,000 of the full value of a house from school taxes for those with incomes of less than $500,000, depends on the tax rate of a given district.

    “In Springs it could be somewhere around $400,” she said, “in Amagansett, maybe $60.”

    Property owners can register to keep their STAR exemption by visiting the website tax.ny.gov, or they can call 518-457-2036.