ALBANY – If you didn’t get your property tax rebate check yet, don’t worry. The state is still sending hundreds of thousands more.
Since August, more than 1.4 million tax relief checks have been mailed to New York homeowners whose income was less than $275,000, according to the state tax department.
Separately, 390,000 checks have gone to homeowners under the STAR program for new homeowners since mid-2015 and those whose household incomes are between $250,000 and $500,000.
Between both programs, the state Department of Taxation and Finance expects more than 2 million checks will ultimately go out this fall.
Why are you getting these checks?
The state in recent years has been moving more toward rebate checks for homeowners to cover a portion of their school taxes, which are among the highest in the nation.
First, all homeowners whose income is below $275,000 a year are getting a rebate check that is a percentage of what they already get back in STAR.
The money is a return of a portion of eligible homeowners’ school taxes.
On average, the checks are up 37% from last year, from $357 to $490.
The program ends this year, and it will be up to the state Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to decide next year whether to keep it in 2020.
The “property tax relief credit” is doled out on a sliding scale based on income.
So if you made under $75,000, the rebate this year is 85% of your STAR savings. So if your STAR savings is $1,000, the check this year would be $850.
For those earning between $75,000 and $150,000, the rebate is 60% of what you receive in STAR; it’s 35% for those between $150,000 and $200,000; 10.5% for between $200,000 and $275,000.
There is also a check for Enhanced STAR for senior citizens: It is 34% back in what they already get in Enhanced STAR.
Did you get your STAR check?
The state has had urgency in getting STAR checks out to homeowners.
Most New Yorkers have a Sept. 30 deadline to pay their school taxes, and the tax department said everyone due a check by that deadline should have received it.
“The STAR credit checks for homeowners with school tax due dates of September 30 were issued before that date,” said tax department spokesman James Gazzale.
“If any homeowners have not received a check but believe they are eligible, they should contact our STAR call center at 518-457-2036.”
The tax department also set up an online database to check when your STAR check should have arrived at www.tax.ny.gov/pit/property/star/star-check-delivery-schedule.htm.
The STAR rebate is sizable for homeowners: The average Basic STAR benefit is $790 this year; the average Enhanced STAR benefit is $1,381.
The state has been moving away from the upfront savings that homeowners were accustomed to in the STAR program.
The program, started in the 1990s, initially took the tax break off directly in school-tax bills. But in recent years, the state — in an effort to move it off the spending side of the ledger — has been increasingly making New Yorkers get checks.
New homeowners who are income-eligible and those earning between $250,000 and $500,000 a year now get checks for their STAR benefits.
Also, a 2% increase in the STAR benefit is only going to those who get a check.
Anyone who has owned their homes prior to Aug. 1, 2015, can keep getting their STAR rebate as an upfront savings, or they can switch to a check.
STAR is available on the primary residence of New Yorkers with household income of $500,000 or less.
Having two different check programs running at the same time has caused confusion, tax assessors said last month.
Enhanced STAR recipients this year also had to verify their income eligibility with the state Department of Taxation and Finance. Assessors and homeowners said there were numerous problems with the verification system, causing errors when they went to pay their school taxes this fall.
Michael Schmidt, the agency’s commissioner, said the errors were very limited.
“First and foremost, seniors should understand that their benefits are not changing and more than 99% of Enhanced STAR recipients have successfully complied with the new program requirements,” he wrote in a op-ed Sept. 26.
And the agency has expanded its hours in hopes of addressing any New Yorkers’ concerns. It said call center representatives will be available weekdays until 7:30 p.m.
The number is 518-457-2036.
“By providing additional assistance to taxpayers – as we have in previous years — we’re making sure their questions are answered timely and effectively,” Gazzale said.
“We routinely extend call center hours around filing deadlines and other peak periods throughout the year to accommodate an increase in callers and questions.”
Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb said the tinkering with the STAR program has been troublesome, saying he has supported legislation that would move it back solely to an exemption program.
“At the end of the day, and for taxpayers facing deadlines, this has been a solution in search of a problem, with highly questionable results,” he said in a statement.
Published by the Rochester D & C, Oct. 8, 2019