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STAR Tax rebate deadline looms large in central New York

New York state is ramping up its message to homeowners, urging them to reapply for the STAR Tax rebate if they haven’t done it yet. The deadline is the end of the month to get in on the tax break.

Looking at a map of the counties in New York state, Teresa Frank of the state’s Real Property Tax Services office, says a majority of homeowners in each county have reapplied for the property tax break, and there is a bit of a trend.

"I think some of the bigger cities are behind. But if I look in Oswego County, Fulton and the city of Oswego are ahead of the county average of percent registered, If I look at some of the smaller cities they’re ahead, but some of the bigger cities are behind.

She says there is some confusion, especially among those who get the Senior Enhanced STAR exemptions.

“Every single piece of literature we put out says it does not effect seniors that have the Senior Enhanced STAR exemption," Frank said. "But I can understand why they want to make sure they’re not going to lose something. So they come in anyway and we say it doesn’t affect you, and you have to reapply every year annually to make sure your income still qualifies. But you’re not involved in this registration process.”

For example, only 70 percent of homeowners in the city of Syracuse have reregistered, while the rate for Onondaga County as a whole is 81 percent. So to fill the gaps, Frank says the state is sending one last mailing out to the people who haven’t reregistered yet.

"We mailed postcards to people that we see haven’t registered yet," Frank said. "A simple postcard that says you haven’t registered yet, you have until December 31st, and it’s three or four colors and maybe it’ll be eye catching.”

With about two and a half weeks before the registration deadline, there are some parts of the state, mostly in rural areas and larger cities, where a quarter or more of homeowners haven’t re-registered.

“In all the information that goes out it tells you the means to register, at local events, with a call center phone center or online," Frank said. "They tell you all the different ways to get out and do this. The postcards are going out staggered I think like the original mailing in August."

There will also registration events in the coming weeks in the North Country and Cayuga County. Taxpayers who don’t reapply will end up paying an average $700 more in their property taxes.

But all is not lost if you get caught up in the holidays and forget.

For those who do miss the December 31 STAR rebate deadline, registration is still available. It just becomes slightly more cumbersome.

Geoffrey Gloak, spokesman for the state Department of Taxation and Finance, says there is no penalty per se for missing the deadline, but the process is more involved for people who register late. In this case, the applicant has to give a valid reason for why they were late.

He says to avoid having to take more time to register later, there's a simple solution.

"It's in their best interest to get this out of the way now," Gloak said.

Gloak says the state wants everyone eligible for the STAR rebate to apply. In an effort to get more people on board, the Department of Taxation and Finance will send out fliers in early January to alert those who failed to sign up.