State alters tax relief program for newcomers
The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance will see an influx in state school tax relief applications after the state revamps its STAR program.
The change affects new homeowners, buyers and those building a home in the Basic and Enhanced STAR Programs. Residents who changed their primary residence from last March onward, must apply to the program, through the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance, for an approved exemption. Long Islanders who started constructing their homes within the same time frame are affected, according to Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Town Assessor Ron Devine.
Devine said residents who have the program up to the 2015-16 tax year will maintain their exemptions. According to Devine, “anyone who is in the system is in the system.” The town will also maintain its approximate 15,000 Enhanced STAR program holders. These holders will receive renewal letters this fall.
The Enhanced STAR program benefits senior citizens 65-years-old and exempts the first $65,300 of the home’s value from school taxes. The basic STAR program, however, is available for owner-occupied primary residences where the homeowners’ and their spouses’ income is less than $500,000. The program exempts $30,000 of the home’s value from school taxes.
According to Romaine, the change in the application process may only affect 3 to 5 percent of homes in the town. But the supervisor questioned if the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance bit off more than it could chew.
“My big concern is that if they’re not staffed, there’ll be a huge backlog of processing that will occur,” Romaine said during a meeting at town hall. “People won’t get their check on time, and it will put people who are either buying a house or building a house in severe disadvantage.”
But the NYS tax department said this change won’t be an issue. According to the department, it successfully processed 2.4 million tax returns after implementing the initial STAR registration program in 2013. The department typically receives around 150,000 applications annually.
The New York State Legislature passed the law earlier this year to change how towns enforce the program within the state. New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) called for the new application process for first-time homeowners and buyers in his 2017 Executive Budget. The budget was approved on April 1.
“The STAR exemption is the only property tax exemption funded by New York State,” the NYS tax department said in an email. “Therefore, it’s more appropriate and efficient for it to be administered by the state rather than by local assessors.”
According to the NYS tax department, residents can start applying through the department in the upcoming weeks by calling the department or visiting its website. Although residents once received credits on their income tax forms, holders receiving an exemption will get a check in the same amount as their STAR benefit.
For more information about the STAR program, residents can call the Town Assessor’s office at 631-451-6300. New homeowners can apply for STAR with the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance by calling 516-571-1500 or visiting its website at www.tax.ny.gov.