If you receive an envelope from the State Department of Taxation and Finance in the next few days, do not ignore it.
That could be a costly mistake. The tax department is sending letters to approximately 2.6 million homeowners statewide reminding them that they have until the end of 2013 to register their School Tax Relief, or STAR, exemption with the state. The exemption can save hundreds of dollars or more.
This marks the first time since the tax relief program began 15 years ago that homeowners must register with the state in order to keep the exemption.
Registration can be done on line or by phone.
STAR has traditionally been administered by local tax collectors, but under this program people must contact the state, which is handling the renewals in an effort to halt double dipping.
The STAR exemption applies only to a primary residence.
Over the past few years, it's become apparent that numerous New Yorkers who have moved to places like Florida but still own homes in New York have continued to claim the exemption.
The Cuomo administration in 2011 estimated STAR double dipping could cost $50 million annually.
As a result, the tax department developed a master list of homeowners who get the break.
So far, 225,000 homeowners, or just under 10 percent of those eligible, have registered.
It remains unclear precisely how many homeowners may miss or simply forget to register their STAR exemption.
Tax officials say they believe almost all eligible homeowners will register by the Dec. 31 deadline.
If a homeowner misses the deadline there will be an appeals process, but officials warn that it will be “cumbersome.”
They are conducting widespread outreach to inform people of the need to register.
So far, 100 Town Hall meetings on the topic have been booked around the state, tax spokesman Cary Ziter said.
The information campaign started in August and so far, the mailed notices have gone out only in Central and Western New York.