Enhanced STAR Income Verification Program: Questions and answers for assessors
- Assessment review
- Senior citizens exemption
- STAR credit
Q: What forms must property owners file?
A: To upgrade the Basic STAR exemption to Enhanced STAR, the property owner must submit the following to the assessor.
- Form RP-425-E, Application for Enhanced STAR Exemption,
- RP-425-IVP, Supplement to Form RP-425-E (include the Social Security numbers of all owners of the property and any of their spouses who reside at the property), and
- a copy of their state or federal income tax return for the appropriate year or, in the case of applicants no longer required to file income tax returns, Form RP-425-Wkst, Income for STAR Purposes Worksheet.
Q: After the first year, are property owners required to renew their Enhanced STAR exemption annually?
A: No. Enhanced STAR recipients are no longer required to file an annual renewal form.
Q: If a property owner applies for the Enhanced STAR exemption but does not submit Form RP-425-IVP, can we grant the Enhanced STAR exemption?
A: No. An Enhanced STAR application is considered incomplete without the RP-425-IVP. However, the property owner will continue to receive Basic STAR if they are eligible.
Q: How is the Tax Department handling income eligibility for seniors who are not required to file income tax returns?
A: If we are unable to verify income, the Tax Department will contact the applicant to collect additional information.
Q: Whose Social Security numbers must be included on Form RP-425-IVP?
A: The form must include the Social Security numbers for all owners and any owner’s spouse who resides on the property.
Q: Is the taxable status date application deadline still in effect?
Q: Can property owners still use Form RP-425-Wkst?
A: Yes. Property owners who do not file income tax returns must file this form with you.
Q: What Social Security numbers should be included on Form RP-425-IVP for trusts and life estates?
A: In a trust ownership, eligibility for the exemption is based on the status of the beneficiary. In a life estate, eligibility is based on the status of the life estate holder. They are considered the owners for exemption purposes and must provide their Social Security numbers, and the Social Security numbers of any resident spouses, for income verification. Trustees and remaindermen should not be included on the form.
Q: Can I enter a negative AGI income amount in the IVP tool?
A: No, the IVP tool will return an error message if a negative amount is entered. Instead, enter zero.
Q: If a property in the IVP changes ownership due to death or other reason, should I update the information in the IVP tool?
A: Yes. Please delete deceased taxpayers and update records where there have been primary residence or owner changes.
Q: How do we handle applications for mobile homes and co-ops?
A: Applications to enroll mobile homes and co-ops in the IVP are handled like applications for other property types. Property owners must file the proper forms and provide income information.
Q: My municipality levies their school tax against the prior year's roll, can we still use the IVP tool?
Q: Can I make corrections in the IVP tool after you determine eligibility?
A: Yes. You should update the IVP tool as you become aware of changes in ownership or residency.
Q. How will the Tax Department process taxpayers whose names are not consistent on the applicable forms? For example, a married couple has John J. Doe and Jane M. Doe on the IVP application but J. Joseph Doe and J. Mary Doe on their income tax return?
A. The Tax Department uses the first three characters of the last name and the Social Security number to make a match. In this case, since the last name is consistent, it will not cause an issue. Whenever taxpayers' last names are inconsistent and cause a mismatch (for example, a couple uses married names on their IVP form and maiden names on their income tax return), we will resolve the issue manually. To avoid mismatches, assessors should encourage taxpayers to enter their names on their IVP forms as they appear on their income tax returns.
Q. If I determine that an Enhanced STAR applicant is not eligible for the exemption, should I still enter the property info in the IVP tool?
A. No. If the property owner becomes eligible in a future year, you should enter the information into the IVP tool after they reapply with your office.
Q: Can I overrule the Tax Department's determination of a taxpayer's income eligibility if I have additional information? For example, if a legally-separated couple, who are living separately, file a joint tax return but can provide evidence of separate income apportionment?
A. No, an assessor does not have the authority to overturn the Tax Department's income determination. In the example above, the taxpayers will receive a denial letter, a request for additional information, or both. The burden is on the taxpayers to demonstrate how the income is apportioned. This could be shown by producing W-2s or other sufficient documentation. If the taxpayers have some sort of jointly owned income-producing fund, the income will be apportioned 50/50 unless the taxpayers are able to demonstrate that some other apportionment is appropriate.
Note: Although an assessor cannot overturn a determination of ineligibility by the Tax Department, if the department determines that a property owner is eligible for the Enhanced STAR exemption, and the assessor has information to confirm that the property owner is not ineligible due to residency, age, or ownership, the assessor should deny the exemption.
Q: If a property owner becomes ineligible for Enhanced STAR for a year due to income, do I remove them from the IVP?
A: No. They should remain in the IVP so we can review their income for eligibility annually.
Q: How do you determine income for property owners who do not file taxes?
A: The Tax Department has access to other sources of income, and we will contact property owners if we need additional information.
Q: What if the Tax Department determines the property owner is eligible, but I determine they are ineligible for another reason?
A: If you determine the owner is ineligible for another reason, you should deny the exemption.
Q: Do I need to notify property owners of the Tax Department’s determinations?
A: No. If the Tax Department determines that a property owner is not income eligible, we'll notify them by mail and inform them of their right to appeal.
Q: Is there assistance available for seniors who request help?
A: The law authorizes assessors to assist senior citizens with the IVP upon request.
Q: When will the Tax Department contact Enhanced STAR recipients?
A: We will notify property owners if we determine that they are not eligible for Enhanced STAR, or if we need additional information.
Q: Do local Boards of Assessment Review (BAR) have authority to review the Tax Department’s determination?
A: No. Property owners must appeal the Tax Department’s determination to the Tax Department. If an applicant disagrees with the appeal determination, they have the right to appeal to the State Board of Real Property Tax Services.
Q: If I deny a property owner’s application for the Enhanced STAR exemption because of residency or other eligibility criteria, does the denial go through the BAR?
A: Yes. The BAR has the authority to review your denials.
Q: If the Tax Department determines a senior is not eligible for Enhanced STAR due to income, should I deny that senior’s application for the senior citizens exemption?
A: No. The qualifications and income years are different for the two exemptions.
Q: What forms must a senior file to apply for the senior citizens exemption?
A: A senior should file Form RP-467 in the initial year of application and Form RP-467-RNW in subsequent years. They must include tax returns or other income-verifying documentation each time they file.
Q: Are Enhanced STAR recipients being moved to the credit program?
A: No. Current Enhanced STAR exemption recipients remain in the exemption program unless they choose to switch to the credit program.
Q: Is the IVP tool secure?
A: Yes. The tool is highly secure. The Tax Department is charged with processing and guarding the information of millions of taxpayers. Similar standards and practices are in place for the IVP tool.