ALBANY – New York this year plans to change how the STAR exemption program works for new homeowners.
New homeowners — or people who move — will receive a check for a portion of their school-property taxes instead of receiving it as an upfront savings in their tax bill. That’s a major change for the $3 billion program since it was started in 1997. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature agreed to do it as part of the state budget deal April 1.
“STAR is a tax-relief program so this change is to achieve consistency with how other state tax cuts are provided,” Cuomo’s budget spokesman Morris Peters said. “There is no change to the amount of the STAR credit for taxpayers, only the mechanism used to claim the credit.”
Here’s how the changes may affect you:
What if I don’t move?
Then you have nothing to worry about.
You will still get your STAR exemption as an upfront savings when you pay your schools taxes each fall.
Households with income under $500,000 are eligible for STAR. They get an exemption from the first $30,000 of the full value of their primary home from school taxes.
Homeowners 65 and older get a larger tax break for Enhanced STAR: The first $65,300 of their home value is exempt from school taxes.
The qualifications are not changing.
Enhanced STAR exemption recipients who are not enrolled in the Income Verification Program must continue to file a renewal application with their local assessor each year to remain in the program.
So what is changing?
Originally, Cuomo’s sought to require new homeowners to pay their taxes upfront and get the STAR rebate on their school taxes when they file their income taxes.
But the sides agreed in the end to make it a check mailed in the fall for those who move or a first-time homeowner. So they will get, starting this year, a check for the portion of their school taxes covered by STAR.
In order to receive the check in September of this year if you’re a new homeowner, you need be registered for STAR through the state Department of Taxation of Finance by July 1.
To register, the application will be online and by phone in the coming weeks. The website is https://www.tax.ny.gov.
After July 1, you can still apply for STAR, and then the state would provide you a check at a later date. The same situation applies for Enhanced STAR.
The program is expected to save the state about $180 million a year when fully implemented in 2018, and the Cuomo administration has argued that the plan would better streamline the process of getting the STAR rebates.
How does this effect my income taxes?
If you received a tax check, it will be as you’ve always done with STAR. If you itemize deductions, you will likely need to subtract the STAR credit from the real estate taxes paid.
Taxpayers who take the standard deduction would see no impact at all.
For those who didn’t move or are not a new homeowner, the tax filing will remain the same: You don’t need to note the upfront tax break, just how much you actually paid in property taxes.
Why is the state doing this?
The state has sought to crack down on abuses in the program, such as people getting the break on more than one home and if they exceed the income limit.
This will help in that effort, state officials said.
The change from a credit to a rebate check is more aimed at helping the state’s ledger to pay for new spending in the state budget, such as a $1 billion income-tax cut, critics said.