The New York State School Tax Relief Program (more commonly known as the STAR Program), or New York State Real Property Tax Law, Section 425 is a school tax rebate program offered in New York State aimed at reducing school district property taxes on the primary residences of New York residents. The program, which acts similarly to (but is much less extensive than) homestead exemptions in other states, was enacted on August 7, 1997.

The STAR program takes two forms: the Basic STAR and the Enhanced STAR. The Basic STAR is open to the primary residence of any New York State resident and exempts $30,000 from the true value of a home or property. The Enhanced STAR, for eligible senior citizens at or above 65, exempts an annually variable amount from the true value of their primary residence. Essentially, the program is aimed to lower the tax burden on school district residents.

When a couple decides to end their marriage, divide their resources and live in separate dwellings without a legal separation they can encounter a problem when they apply for the STAR exemption. From the perspective of the tax collector, they are still married and only one can claim the exemption on his or her property.

Recently a couple came to me for mediated assistance. They were married for over twenty years but were now living apart. They had dissolved their joint bank accounts, cashed in their insurance policies and the husband had provided the wife with a settlement for her share of equity in the marital residence. They were now living in separate residences. When each attempted to obtain the STAR exemption they were notified that only one could make a proper claim since they were still married and could only claim one primary residence.

We were able to solve that problem quickly by scribing a separation agreement that legally noted their separate dwellings and thus making each eligible for the STAR exemption.

Need help with STAR during divorce or mediation? Contact Jerry Fabiano today.

Image source: From page 22 of ‘The Poetical Works of Robert Burns. Edited by the Rev. Robert Aris Willmott’, The British Library on Flickr Commons