Thursday, August 23, 2007

Your Property Tax Rebate Check WON'T Be In The Mail. . .

. . .Unless You Actually Apply For It!

No automatic property tax (STAR) rebate check for 2007. This time around, you'll have to jump through a few hoops and take a proactive stance if you want to see that money -- taxable money -- back in your pocket.

Yes, you will have to apply for your rebate -- as in work to get your own money back -- following the procedures prescribed by the movers and shakers in Albany.

It goes something like this:

The New York State Department of Taxation & Finance (the folks who collect your income tax) will, in accordance with a schedule, presumably devised by someone who doesn't care much for Long Islanders, will send letters to homeowners informing them of the rebate process, and providing an all-important "STAR Code," as will appear on these letters. [Apparently, Lot, Block and Section numbers aren't good enough anymore. Now we need "STAR Codes."]

Once you have received your STAR Code, you may either apply for your rebate online, by mail, or -- and this is only for readers of this blog -- by cutting out 6 box tops from boxes of Cheerios, completing a simple Suduko puzzle, and sending same, together with $2.95 for shipping and handling, to REBATE, P.O. Box 2345, Young America, MN 55395-2345.

After your application has been received and processed, you may then stand fast at your mailbox, waiting for your rebate check to arrive.

When will you get your informational letter? Ah, sooner or later. Sooner, if you live in NYC (their letters were mailed on July 16) or counties such as Niagara (August 20), later if you reside in places like Nassau and Suffolk (dead last on the mailing list at September 24).

How much of a rebate will I get? Not nearly as much as you paid in property taxes! While the property tax paid by you is based on factors such as the market value of your house and your school district's tax rate, the amount of your rebate check will be dtermined, in large part, on your INCOME. In fact, your 2007 STAR rebate will be calculated based on the 2005 combined income of all property owners and their spouses.

Hmmm. How is it that you are taxed based on property value, not ability to pay (income), but your rebate, of a PROPERTY TAX, no less, is based on how much you earn (income), and not the value of the property upon which the tax was based in the first place? Go figure. [We did, and the answer is simple. A property TAX based on the market value of your home means the government gets more money (because you pay more), while a rebate based on income means the government gets to keep more of your money (because you get less).

Is the amount I receive as a rebate taxable as income? You bet! In effect, it reduces the amount of the property tax that you claim as a deduction. So, your check for, say, $490.82, is less in real dollars after the loss of the deduction is taken into account. Okay, its not technically a tax, its just a reduction of your deduction -- either way, you pay. [And if you failed to reduce the amount of your property tax deduction by the amount of your rebate on last year's tax return, pack your bags, you're going to jail!]

I'm an old geezer who receives the benefit of Enhanced STAR. What do I have to do to get a rebate? Relax, old timer. Enhanced STAR recipients do not have to apply for a rebate. Checks will be sent out automatically.

What is the deadline for filing the application for a STAR rebate? November 30, 2007. NO EXCEPTIONS!

Will I have to apply for a rebate every year? Nope. Apply in 2007, and you're covered for future rebates, if any. Assuming, of course, that the State Legislature doesn't change the rules.

Instead of this convoluted "rebate" process, putting a small amount of money (on which I've already paid income taxes) back into my pocket, for a huge amount of money I've previously paid in property taxes (with post-income tax dollars), and then taxing that money a second time (or is it a third?), why not reduced the school property tax in the first place? Excellent question! Of course, you're kidding, right? Reduce property taxes? The State Legislature makes no provision for that. Silly.

I STILL have questions. What should I do? You're an idiot. Click HERE.

Hey, I voted to elect Kate Murray as Town of Hempstead Supervisor in 2005, and plan to do so again this year. How much will my rebate check be for? NOTHING! You're a damn fool. Don't pass go. Don't collect $200. Go directly to jail (along with half of the Town of Hempstead Building Department).

Now, if you think this is complicated, just wait until next year, when the Legislature enacts a bigger, better bottle bill. In order to get you nickel deposit back, you will have to insert the bottle into your computer through a USB post while standing on one leg and repeating the phrase, "Joe Bruno can fly. Joe Bruno can fly. Joe Bruno can fly."

Your bottle deposit refund will, of course, be based on your income, and, yes, it will be taxable.

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