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Upstate NY homeowners get property tax, STAR rebate scare

The only thing worse than getting a surprising high property tax appraisal — which, as one of April's tax tips advises, you definitely should protest for venting, as well as potential lower tax, purposes — is having your local tax collector tell you that your tax payment is overdue.

That happened to 2,400 homeowners in upstate New York, according to

Tax rebate endangered: Technically, the property owners in Onondaga County didn't get a past due bill. Instead, they incorrectly received notice from the Empire State's Department of Taxation and Finance that they could lose their School Tax Relief, or STAR, check.

This New York property tax relief for eligible homeowners is distributed annually in one of two ways. Some homeowners get a tax exemption, which reduces their home's tax bill. Others opt to get a STAR credit check, which they can use to pay school tax bills.

The erroneous letters informed the alarmed New Yorkers that they were on the county's list of homeowners who hadn't yet paid their 2022 property taxes. While that was true, this year's unpaid bills shouldn't have affected their STAR status.

The applicable list for STAR-less purposes is Onondaga County Department of Real Property Taxes' tracking of 2021 tax payments.


Most homeowners OK: The online news service reported that after "quite a few phone calls," the tax year list confusion was cleared up.

The 1,589 incorrect letter recipients don't have to take further action to prove they are property tax compliant.

However, the 811 homeowners who've yet to pay their 2011 real estate taxes need to pay that overdue property tax bill as soon as possible or lose their STAR tax break.

Having personally received a variety of incorrect bills over the years, I'm choosing the 1,589 N.Y. homeowners who knew their tax officials were wrong as recipients of what I hope is a more welcome honor. They represent this weekend's By the Numbers figure.

Double check tax bills: While this property tax mistake is relatively minuscule in the grand tax scheme, it does offer a good reminder for any tax-related matter.

Pay immediate notice to any correspondence from any tax agency. Errors are made (in STAR's case, even in connection with a former Oval Office occupant), and if they're ignored, they could compound.

If you do owe, your ultimate bill will be larger. If you don't owe, the longer it takes to correct the official mistake, the more hassle you're likely to encounter.

And when it comes to real estate taxes in particular, you also might find these previous posts, including the aforementioned property tax protest tip, of items of interest:








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