STAR Income Verification Procedures
Beginning with 2003 assessment rolls, seniors who are re-applying for Enhanced STAR may authorize the assessor to have their incomes verified in subsequent years by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance (DTF). Seniors who choose this option must furnish their social security numbers (SSNs) at that time by completing the STAR Income Verification Application (RP-425-IVP).
ORPTS will prepare a data file structure and will compile extracted assessment data from 2002 files. At the same time, ORPTS will develop a web-based application providing for secured access by local officials and DTF. This application will allow for local input and updating of SSNs.
After checking its records, DTF will notify ORPTS which applicants satisfy the income requirements and which do not (it will not disclose their actual incomes), and ORPTS will forward that information to the appropriate assessors. Most seniors who choose this option will no longer need to re-apply thereafter or furnish tax returns to their local assessors (unless DTF should be unable to verify their returns).
What this means is that to receive the Enhanced exemption on the 2003 roll, eligible seniors will still have to file traditional application forms, with copies of their 2001 tax returns, by the taxable status date. However, if they opt for the verification program when filling out their 2003 application forms, they will not have to reapply or submit tax returns in 2004 or thereafter, assuming their income eligibility continues to be verified each year by DTF. Obviously, this should greatly reduce the burdens both for participating seniors and assessors from that point forward.
There may occasionally be cases where DTF finds that the applicants don't satisfy the applicable income requirements, or where DTF is unable to determine whether the applicants satisfy those requirements. In those cases, DTF will notify ORPTS, which will make the information available via the web-based application to the assessor, who will initiate the process to revoke or discontinue the exemption. The senior would be notified of the possible revocation or discontinuance and given the opportunity to present income documentation or to contest the matter before the Board of Assessment Review.
Even where seniors opt to have their income eligibility verified annually by DTF, it will remain the responsibility of the assessor to ensure that they continue to satisfy the residency and ownership requirements. Thus, the new law requires the assessor to send postcards (RP-425-IVP-Postcard) to these seniors annually, 60 days before taxable status date, advising them of the new income standard (with the COLA adjustment), reminding them that they have chosen to have their income eligibility verified by DTF, and reminding them that they should notify the assessor if their primary residence has changed or if there has been an ownership change.
Seniors who do not wish to participate in the income verification program for any reason will not be obliged to do so. But if they wish to continue receiving the Enhanced STAR exemption, they will have to keep reapplying, with copies of their tax returns, year after year, just as they have been doing. The main difference, as far as they are concerned, is that the assessor will be obliged to send them an application form every year, with a reminder that they must reapply by taxable status date. If a senior who initially decided to opt-out of the income verification program later decides he or she would like to opt in, he or she will be permitted to do so.
STAR-Income Verification Frequently Asked Questions
- Question: Does the "Optional Income Verification Program Application (RP-425-IVP)" need to be mailed with the "STAR Renewal Application (RP-425-RNW)" to eligible seniors?
Answer: Yes. The new IVP form should be considered "page two" of the STAR renewal application. It also should be noted that the income verification option only applies to renewal applications for Enhanced STAR. A senior who is applying for Enhanced STAR for the first time (or who previously received the exemption in another assessing unit but has moved to a new assessing unit) will still have to submit an application form accompanied by a copy of his, her or their income tax returns.
- Question:Can Enhanced STAR recipients who reside in mobile home parks or in cooperative apartments participate in the STAR IVP Program?
Answer: Yes, there may be multiple applications associated with each mobile home park or cooperative apartment corporation, but the assessor still has a RP-425-IVP for each unit/apartment which sets forth the SSNs that go with each unit-those SSNs can be captured and sent to DTF like anyone else's.
- Question: Can a senior who does not file a New York State income tax return participate in the Income Verification Program?
Answer: The answer is no. Only those seniors who file New York State income tax returns are eligible to participate in the Income Verification Program. Without a New York State income tax return on file, DTF would have no way to verify the applicant's income.
- Question: A taxpayer has been receiving Enhanced STAR by virtue of his or her eligibility for the Senior Citizen Exemption authorized by section 467 of the RPTL. Can such a taxpayer participate in the Income Verification Program?
Answer: No. The income verification option does not directly affect seniors who are receiving the Senior Citizens Exemption. Such persons will still have to reapply for the 467 exemption annually, and provide income documentation therewith, if they wish to continue receiving that exemption. Of course, as long as they qualify for the 467 exemption, they will automatically qualify for the Enhanced STAR exemption, so they will not need to submit separate STAR applications in those cases.
- Question: Will a new STAR exemption code be required for parcels with an Enhanced STAR where the taxpayer has opted into the Income Verification Program?
Answer: No. A "49" in the exemption termination year field will be used to identify these parcels for RPS-V3 users. For RPS-V4, the termination year is a four position field and should be entered as "2049". This information can be added to the existing Enhanced STAR exemption codes without requiring RPS software modifications. For municipalities that do not use RPS software, an alternative means of identifying these parcels will need to be developed.
- Question: When will the web-site application be available to assessors to submit the collected Income Verification information?
Answer: The web-site application should be available by July 2003.
- Question: How will the assessor provide the Income Verification information if the office does not have Internet access?
Answer: The assessor will have to access the application at another location such as his/her respective county office, the associated ORPTS regional office or the local public library.
- Question: What is the cut-off date for assessors to submit Income Verification information for the 2003 assessment roll through the web application?
Answer: The cut-off date will be in October 2003.
- Question: When should an assessor expect to receive the income verification results performed by DTF in order for the assessor to update STAR exemption files?
Answer: The results will be available from the ORPTS web-based application in December 2003.
- Question: What happens in subsequent years when assessors collect Income Verification forms only for new applicants?
Answer: In future years an assessor will only be updating the Income Verification information previously submitted through the web application. Information for new IVP applicants will be submitted through the web application and previous applicants who are no longer eligible will be removed through the web application.
- Question: Will ORPTS provide the postcards (RP-425-IVP-Postcard) that must be sent to seniors participating in the Income Verification Program regarding the new income standard (with the COLA adjustment) for the Enhanced STAR exemption?
Answer: ORPTS will provide the postcards, but the assessor is responsible for providing labels and postage.
- Question: If DTF determines that an applicant's income exceeds the prescribed limit and the applicant files a grievance, what documentation will the assessor rely on to support denial of the exemption.
Answer: If the applicant insists that his/her income qualifies, the assessor can require that the appropriate income tax forms for all owners and owners' spouses residing on the premises be submitted in support of the argument.
Note: Due to issues of privacy, under no circumstances will information related to the dollar amount of an applicant's actual income be divulged by DTF.
- Question: If DTF determines that an applicant qualifies, must the assessor retain a copy of the RP-425-IVP?
Answer: No. RP-425, the main application form must be retained, but the second page, RP-425-IVP, can be shredded.