Problems found with STAR rebate checks
by: Joseph Spector, Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY – The state tax department had assured New Yorkers who recently moved or bought a new home that their STAR rebate checks would arrive by the end of September — in time for homeowners to pay their school taxes.
But some checks have either been slow in coming or landing in mailboxes with inaccurate reimbursements, local officials said.
And the clock is ticking: If homeowners in most communities do not pay their school taxes by Friday, they can be assessed a late fee.
The situation is creating hardship for some residents who can be owed thousands of dollars by the state to pay off their school taxes and might not have the ability to front the money before the state check arrives, local assessors said.
“We’ve had people in here in tears because they haven’t gotten their checks,” said Teri Ross, the assessor in the Queensbury, Warren County, who is president of the state Assessors Association.
“Some people can’t pay their tax bill without the check.”
The issues became apparent in recent days when the state Department of Taxation and Finance notified town assessors that some senior citizens who receive an Enhanced STAR benefit were not getting the full amount owed in their rebate checks.
The state estimates the basic STAR credit this year is $750, while the Enhanced STAR is about $1,400 for eligible seniors.
“We have identified an issue with some of the STAR credit checks that were mailed this past weekend,” a tax department memo to the towns says. “As a result, we mailed a Basic STAR credit to some property owners who are eligible for the Enhanced STAR credit.”
It continued, “We know which taxpayers are affected, and are working to send them a check for the difference as soon as possible.”
The tax department said it is personally reaching out to each person affected and following up with a letter.
The confusion is the result of a change in state law in April.
The state shifted the STAR program from being an upfront savings on property owners’ school tax bills to a check sent by the state tax department for people who bought homes after Aug. 1, 2015, or didn’t first apply for STAR since May 1, 2014.
For homeowners who didn’t move, the STAR program won’t change: It remains an upfront exemption on property taxes.