In recent years New York’s Legislature has taken several steps to change the way the popular STAR tax program is administered. The State has continued to implement a series of modifications to how New Yorkers receive their rebates. New York has been moving away from providing STAR as an upfront savings on School Tax bills.
The modification began in 2016 when New Yorkers who bought their home after August 1, 2015 received their STAR checks in the mail rather than receive the reduction in their school tax bill.
Another round of modifications was recently made in the State Budget that was approved on Monday April 1, 2019.
The first change will start this fall and expands the mail check program to include not only new homeowners, but also to anyone earning between $250,000 and $500,000 a year. These homeowners will receive a check for their STAR rebates rather than receive the savings directly in their school-tax bills. As a result, only those homeowners who fall below the $250,000 threshold and who bought their existing home prior to mid-2015 will receive the STAR discount directly off of their School Tax bills.
The second change allows homeowners who qualify for the STAR to have a choice as to whether to stay with the current system or shift to the State’s program. However, those who stay with the current system will have the amount of their benefit frozen at 2019 levels – they will lose the 2% increase each year. This will incentivize existing homeowners and new homeowners who fall below the $250,000 threshold to elect to receive a rebate check. If the switch is not made to receiving a check, the homeowner will not receive the 2 percent increase in their tax savings this fall. The rebate will essentially remain the same until the switch to checks is made.
The State’s goal is to move everyone over to receiving checks as the Governor claims it is more efficient for the State. The changes won’t impact who is eligible for the program – just whether they receive the rebates in a check or as a reduction in their school-tax bills.
The NY State Tax Department is expected to send letters to eligible property owners with instructions for switching. Property owners can also find instructions online to end their current STAR exemption and register with the State. Homeowners need to notify their town assessor in writing. Then register with the state. A homeowner can call the State tax department with questions at 518-457-2036.
STAR PROGRAM FACTS
– If you own your home, it is your primary residence, and your income is $500,000 or less, you are eligible for the Basic STAR credit.
– Senior citizens – those who have jointly owned property with one spouse or sibling who is age 65 by year’s end – they are eligible to receive Enhanced STAR. The income eligibility is $86,300 or less.
– Enhanced STAR is a larger rebate: Seniors get an average $1,400 a year back on their school taxes.
– STAR is based on the first $30,000 of the full value of a home. For Enhanced STAR, it is based on the first $68,700.
– Last year, New York issued 343,000 STAR checks
– The STAR program is a separate program from the Property Tax Relief Credit. These checks are mailed to homeowners with an adjusted gross household income of $275,000 or less and whose school district remained under the property tax-cap.
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