Friday, June 08, 2007

The STAR Rebate Check May Not Be In The Mail

Seniors To Get Checks Automatically; Others Must Apply For Rebate

In 2006, shortly before the November elections, most New York homeowners checked their mailboxes, and found a check -- not a big check, but some pocket change nonetheless -- from Albany. Not manna from heaven, but rather, a "rebate" of a portion, albeit small, of their real property taxes.

True, some of those STAR rebates were misdirected. Others were made out to previous homeowners. And the State spent millions -- of your tax dollars -- to administer the rebate program and to mail those checks.

That said, the process was brainless, if not painless, for homeowners, who simply had to wait at the mailbox for the rebate check, then carry it all the way to the bank -- where the check could be cashed and used to pay for a cell phone bill or a family outing to the local cinema (popcorn not included), maybe.

In 2007, there will be STAR rebates -- in somewhat larger dollar amounts than in the prior year -- but getting your hands on that check may require some action on your part.

According to the New York State Department of Taxation & Finance, "property owners who receive a basic STAR exemption on their 2007-2008 school tax bills will have to apply for the rebate check. Senior citizens who are property owners and receive an enhanced STAR exemption on their 2007-2008 tax bill will receive a rebate check automatically. For seniors with enhanced STAR, no application is required."

The application process is "in development," and Basic STAR recipients are encouraged to visit the Department's website in or about August for more details.

Presumably, application instructions will be mailed to property owners -- yet another expense taxpayers will have to bear -- with application and income verification to follow. "Income verification?" Yes, your rebate will be tied to your income (as in, "certain limitations will apply"). As for "verification," damn, they're the Department of Taxation & Finance, for goodness sake. Don't they already have our income tax records?

Anyway, the rebate process appears doomed to become more complicated, and certainly more ccostly. Pretty soon, they'll have to increase your property taxes just to pay for your rebate check.

Hold onto your wallets, folks!

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