Important Changes to New York’s School Tax Relief (STAR) Program

By: Ami S. Longstreet

New York State has a school tax relief (STAR) program available to New Yorkers who own their home as their primary residence and earn less than $500,000 per year. Previously, this relief was in the form of a partial exemption on the school tax bill. New York started issuing STAR checks instead of partial tax exemptions for homeowners who purchased their homes on or after August 1, 2015.

The recently passed 2019-2020 NYS Budget made some important changes to the STAR Program. Homeowners who make between $250,000 and $500,000 will receive a check rather than the exemption.  Additionally, all other STAR recipients have the option to switch to the check system.

Why switch? According to the Cuomo administration, by opting for the check, your STAR savings may increase by up to 2 percent. Switching does not guarantee the homeowner a 2 percent increase, since savings amounts fluctuate each year and can go either up or down.  But anyone who sticks with the exemption will not get an increase this year.

The state Department of Taxation and Finance plans to send out letters to tell homeowners about the change, which takes effect this year with the tax bills that school districts send out in September in most places. Those who decide to drop the exemption would pay their full taxes but would then receive a check from Albany to cover their STAR savings.

If you want to receive the check this year instead of the exemption, you must contact your local assessor to withdraw from the STAR exemption or complete Form RP-496, and then register online for the STAR credit program by July 1, 2019.  Homeowners may apply online at www.tax.ny.gov/pit/property/star/default.htm.

For more information on the changes, go to www.tax.ny.gov/star/.

Is the Enhanced STAR program changing? No. Enhanced STAR continues to be available to qualifying senior citizens age 65 and older who have income under $86,300 (for 2019) (all owners and spouses combined). However, if you have not already, you must enroll in the income verification system. Information on the income verification system can be found at www.tax.ny.gov/pit/property/star/ivp.htm.