NEW YORK STATE STAR PROGRAM CHANGES

Budget cuts, slashed programs, and loss of services seem to be the theme of the day for New York State Residents. However, there is one great tax savings program that is alive and well, and offers a great benefit to homeowners who sign up for it.

On August 7, 1997, a property tax savings program was enacted by Governor George Pataki. This New York State School Tax Relief Program (more commonly known as the STAR Program) is a package that offers school tax relief for the primary residence of New York State residents. The STAR program exists in two forms: the Basic STAR and the enhanced STAR. The basic STAR exempts $30,000.00 off of the true assessed value of one's property, and the Enhanced STAR (for senior citizens over age 65 with income below $60,000.00) exempts an annual variable amount from the true assessed value of their property. The 2015-2016 Enhanced STAR exemption amount is $65,300.00.

One who registers for the Basic STAR does need to re-register for the Enhanced STAR. The Tax Department will automatically review the applications to determine whether one is eligible for Enhanced STAR.

Since its enactment, qualified applicants received a reduction in their annual school tax bills provided they properly registered for the program. Registration was typically done with one's local assessor's office and only had to be done once. However, in 2014 new applicants, along with those who already were receiving STAR, were required to register online with the New York Tax Department in order to protect against inappropriate or fraudulent STAR exemptions.

In 2015, the New York State Department of Taxation changed the program for new property owners. Now, instead of getting an annual reduction in their school tax bill, a check reflecting the savings will be sent to the homeowner each year. The updated program applies for those who purchased their homes after the 2015 STAR deadline, which was March 1, 2015 for most municipalities (This date varies for some municipalities, especially in Westchester County). New applicants must register with New York State by going online to www.tax.ny.gov, then click on the tab that says Property Owners, then click on Register for STAR credit.

As long as one has registered prior to July1, New York State will send a rebate check in September and continue to send the rebate checks each September as long as the applicant still qualifies for STAR. Once a person registers, there is no need to re-register unless the State changes the requirements once again. No checks will be sent to those homeowners who had been receiving annual STAR property tax savings; rather they will continue to see the STAR reduction in their annual school tax bills.

The important thing to remember is that if you don't register for STAR no rebate will be given, and the rebates are not retroactive when you finally do register. With STAR, "if you snooze, you lose." So pass the word along to all your friends and colleagues who purchased new homes that they need to register for STAR to get the benefits which can amount to quite a large rebate for such a small registration task.

Rick S. Cowle is an attorney admitted to practice law in New York, Connecticut, The District of Columbia and The United States Supreme Court. He is president of The Law Office of Rick S. Cowle, PC a general practice law firm located at 18 Fair Street, Carmel, NY 10512, (845) 225-3026, e-mail: RCowle [email protected] Comcast.net, Web Site: RCowleLaw.com

This article is meant for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create an attorney client relationship or to give legal advice.