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Regional Spotlight: Tax Rebates Await N.Y. Homeowners

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By Jay Romano

RISMEDIA, Dec. 11, 2007-(NYTimes.com)-The State of New York is fervently trying to give property owners some of their tax money back. But some owners may be leaving money on the table.

In July, the Department of Taxation and Finance started mailing information to homeowners on applying for the 2007 Middle Class School Tax Relief rebate. The program is an extension of the basic and enhanced STAR program, which provides homeowners with an exemption on their school taxes. The deadline for applying for the middle-class program – originally Nov. 30 – has been extended to Dec. 31.

Thomas Bergin, a spokesman for the tax department, said about 2.7 million notices had been sent out and about 2.3 million had been returned.

Mr. Bergin said Middle Class STAR was created to provide an additional rebate for those already in the state’s basic or enhanced program.

The basic program exempts the first $30,000 of a primary home’s assessed value from local school taxes. So, for example, an owner with a home worth $400,000 would pay school taxes on only $370,000.

The enhanced program, available to homeowners 65 and older with a yearly household income of less than $70,650, exempts the first $56,800 of the value of a home from school taxes.

Mr. Bergin said that last year every homeowner enrolled in the STAR program received a rebate check automatically. The amount of the rebate was based upon the school district the homeowner was in. So while owners in different districts might receive different rebates, owners within a particular district all received the same amount.

This year, however, the Middle Class STAR rebate is calculated on a sliding scale based on income. The maximum benefit will go to upstate homeowners earning $90,000 or less, and New York City area homeowners earning $120,000 or less. (Mr. Bergin said rebates ranged from about $300 to $900; that is in addition to the basic or enhanced exemption.)

To qualify, a homeowner must be enrolled in basic or enhanced STAR, must use the home as the primary residence and must have a total household income of $250,000 or less.

Because the program is income-based this year, it is necessary to apply for the rebate. (Enhanced STAR participants do not have to apply; their rebates are sent automatically.)

Applications have been sent to every homeowner already enrolled in the STAR program.

It is also possible to apply online by going to nystax.gov and clicking on the 2007 Middle Class STAR Rebate Program link. Once there, homeowners can file their application using their STAR code, which was included in the mailing from the tax department.

New York City homeowners can file online by entering their lot and block number, which is on their tax bill.

Homeowners can also apply by mail by printing the online application.

Mr. Bergin noted that homeowners who are not already enrolled in the STAR program – or don’t know whether they are – should contact the local assessor or call (888) 697-8275 to enroll now so they will be eligible for benefits next year.

Source: NYTimes.com.

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