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State Property Checks Explained

By Will Barclay

Date:

My office has been getting calls from constituents who are understandably confused about two rebate checks the state has begun to mail to property taxpayers and whether they should expect to receive one, none or both. I want to try to clarify for the public what these checks are and who should receive them. The two being mailed this year are the School Tax Relief (STAR) Personal Income Tax Credit check and the Property Tax Relief Credit check.

 The School Tax Relief (STAR) program was created in 1997 as a way to reduce school tax bills for property taxpayers. Essentially, property owners apply to the program to be exempt from paying the full amount of school taxes levied by their local school districts. There are two types of STAR savings — Basic and Enhanced — and both have income requirements. Basic STAR recipients are exempt from paying school taxes on the first $30,000 in home value on their primary residence, as long as they earn less than $500,000 a year. Enhanced STAR recipients, those 65 and older, are exempt on the first $68,700 of the full assessed value of the home as long as they earn less than $86,300 a year. The state then pays local school districts the equivalent to the total property-tax exemptions.

STAR Personal Income Tax Credit check for some 

Changes have occurred to STAR in the last three years and one of the state checks being mailed is attributed to these changes. People who purchased a primary residence in 2016 or later are no longer eligible for the exemption. They instead have to enroll in the STAR Personal Income Tax Credit program. This means they’ll still receive the tax savings but instead of saving up front on school-tax bills, these homeowners are charged for their taxes in full and are then sent a check to help offset their school tax bill. Also, starting this year, those homeowners with incomes above $250,000, but below $500,000, are not eligible for the Basic STAR Exemption. The Department of Taxation and Finance was supposed to have automatically enrolled these homeowners into the STAR Personal Income Tax Credit program. Credit checks in both cases are now being mailed to homeowners.

It should be noted that all homeowners are eligible to switch from the exemption to the credit program. In fact, there is a big push to move people out of the exemption program to the credit program following a change in this year’s budget. If people with a Basic or Enhanced STAR Exemption do not switch from the exemption program to the credit program, their STAR benefit will be frozen at the 2019 levels. STAR recipients are encouraged to visit https://www.tax.ny.gov/star/ and switch to the credit to ensure maximum benefits as the benefit is scheduled to increase up to 2 percent each year.

Property Tax Relief Credit check

The other check being mailed is due to the Property Tax Relief Credit program. This is the fourth year of the program and these checks are being sent to property owners whose respective school districts have stayed within the 2 percent real property tax cap. Similar to previous years, no application is necessary. In 2016, homeowners received a flat amount-— $185 for upstate residents and $130 for downstate residents. This year, the check amount is based both on household income and a percentage of what homeowners save through STAR. 

For Basic STAR recipients, those who earn $75,000 or less will receive a Property Tax Relief Credit check the equivalent to 85 percent of their STAR savings. Households earning between $75,000 and $150,000 will receive the equivalent of 60 percent of their STAR savings; those earning between $150,000 and $200,000 will receive the equivalent of 35 percent of their STAR savings; and those earning $200,000 and $275,000 will receive the equivalent of 10 percent of their STAR savings. If you qualify for Enhanced STAR, this property tax relief check is the equivalent to 34 percent of the STAR savings.      

William (Will) A. Barclay is the Republican representative of the 120th New York Assembly District, which encompasses most of Oswego County, including the cities of Oswego and Fulton, as well as the town of Lysander in Onondaga County and town of Ellisburg in Jefferson County. Contact him at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or (315) 598-5185.

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