TONAWNADA, N.Y. (WKBW) — It is that time of year when school taxes are due for many homeowners in Western New York.
The New York State STAR School Tax Relief program is designed to help those owners reduce the amount they pay in school taxes through either an exemption on the up-front cost or a rebate check.
STAR rebate checks have been arriving in the mail recently and you can check when yours will be coming by clicking here.
But this year, there are a lot of people confused about the STAR program because of changes to some of the rules.
Tim Eliason, from EG Tax in Tonawanda,said his office has been "flooded" with callers concerned and confused about the changes.
The first change involves homeowners getting Basic STAR and making more than $250,000 and less than $500,000. No longer will they get an exemption (reduced price) on the up-front cost of their school tax. Instead, they will now get a rebate check that will be mailed out next year.
However, the biggest confusion involves the Enhanced STAR Exemption for seniors 65 and older.
Seniors applying for Enhanced STAR must also enroll in an income verification program with NYS - even those you don't have to file a tax return.
"It is a little bit of a process and it has to go to the state. You can't go to your local assessor anymore," explained Eliason.
Complicating things even more, the deadline to apply for the Enhanced STAR Exemption has passed.
Seniors who missed the deadline for the 2019-20 school tax year must now request an extension to file for Enhanced STAR directly from the NYS Tax Department - and it will only by granted for "just cause."
Dave Marrano, assessor for the towns of Amherst and Tonawanda, said NYS has been notifying those seniors and local assessors about which Enhanced Star Exemptions could be ending. Those owners now have until October 15th to request an extension from the state tax department to apply for the Enhanced STAR exemption because of "just cause" for the 2019-20 school tax year.
If you need to request an extension to apply for Enhanced STAR, you can find out how to do it by clicking here.
Failure to get the Enhanced STAR Exemption will mean an affected senior homeowner will lose a substantial reduction in school tax for 2019-20.
Marrano admits if can be confusing but wanted seniors to know they can still file for the low-income senior exemption with their local assessor. The deadline for that is March 1, 2020 - except for Buffalo and Lackawanna which have different time lines.
In addition Marrano said people hoping to get Basic STAR can still deal with their local assessors.
You can read information about the STAR program from NYS by clicking here.