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02/10/2021 How to help seniors who want to switch to the Enhanced STAR credit

As we mentioned on February 1, the Governor included a proposal in his Executive Budget that would close the Enhanced STAR exemption to new applicants. Homeowners receiving the Basic STAR exemption who age into or otherwise become initially eligible for Enhanced STAR, would be required to register for the STAR credit to receive the Enhanced benefit.

We’ve heard that, as a result of the proposal, some assessors are encouraging new Enhanced STAR applicants to register for the STAR credit instead of remaining in the exemption program. (Hat tip to Assessor Denise Trudell for bringing this topic to our attention.)
While that may be to the seniors’ advantage (we’ll explain why in a moment), we first want to note that, at this time, this proposal is just a proposal. We won’t know its fate until the Governor and Legislature reach agreement on a budget, which will likely be around April 1.

Therefore, under current law, those seniors still have the right to apply for the Enhanced STAR exemption. It is true that, if the proposal does become law, those applicants will be unable to receive the exemption. They will presumably want to switch into the credit at that point. But as the STAR program now stands, they should be permitted to apply for the exemption if they wish to.

Why switch voluntarily?

That being said, regardless of the fate of the budget proposal, there is a good reason for STAR applicants—especially those who are eligible for Enhanced STAR—to switch to the STAR credit: more money. More than three quarters of Enhanced STAR exemption recipients in 2020 would have received a larger benefit if they had switched to the STAR credit. 10% of the Enhanced recipients would have received at least $60 more! (And, as we know the amount of the STAR credit cannot be less than the STAR exemption savings.)

What to tell seniors applying for the Enhanced STAR exemption

If you want to suggest that new Enhanced STAR applicants switch to the STAR credit, please provide them with this advice:

  • If they call us to register for the STAR credit, they should tell the representative that they want to switch to the STAR credit. (If they say they want to register for the Enhanced STAR exemption, the representative may refer them back to their assessor.)
  • If they register online for the STAR credit, in the beginning of the application process they should select Make the switch. That will prompt us to include them on the Voluntary Exemption Removal Report, and you’ll know that you must remove their STAR exemption from the assessment roll.
  • Whether they register online or by phone, they should do so before the tentative roll date if possible, and they should have the following available:
    • names and Social Security numbers for all owners of the property and their spouses
    • 2019 federal or state income tax returns for all owners who filed 2019 income taxes
    • the primary residence of the owners and their spouses
    • the most recent school tax bill, if they have it
    • the legal name of the trust, if applicable