ALBANY - New York issued 2.1 million property tax rebate checks in late summer and early fall, saying it was able to speed up a process beset with delays and problems in recent years.
The checks averaged $350 this year and are a rebate for a portion of eligible homeowners' school taxes.
The state started to dole out the checks around Labor Day and just before Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced a Democratic primary against actress Cynthia Nixon, drawing criticism for their timeliness.
In past years, the checks didn't start to go out until fall and well into the winter.
"They were all out in time for property owners to pay their bills on time," said James Gazzale, a spokesman for the state Department of Taxation and Finance.
What should I have received?
Called the property tax relief credit, the checks are mailed to homeowners whose adjusted gross household income was $275,000 or less and whose school district stayed under the property-tax cap.
The checks have grown since the program was started in 2016 at a total cost of $1.3 billion.
In its first year, homeowners received a flat amount of $185 for upstate residents and $130 downstate.
Since then, the check amount is based on a percentage of what you get back each year through the separate STAR rebate program, the $3 billion a year initiative started in the late 1990s.
This year, if you made under $75,000, the rebate was 60 percent of your STAR savings.
So if your STAR savings was $1,000 a year, your check was $600.
How does it work?
The higher the income, the lower the rebate.
It was 42.5 percent of the STAR break for those earning between $75,000 and $150,000; 25 percent between $150,000 to $200,000; and 7.5 percent for between $200,000 and $275,000.
The percentages grow again in 2019, the last year of the program. In 2019, the checks will be as high as 85 percent of the STAR rebate for those earning $75,000 a year or less.
It would be up to the state Legislature in 2019 to decide whether to extend the program past its four-year lifespan.
Senior citizens who receive Enhanced STAR also got a check: 26 percent of their STAR credit. It grows to 34 percent in 2019.
Gazzale said the rebate checks should all have been issued, but some may still be lingering.
What if I didn't get a check?
The Tax Department automatically mailed out the checks to eligible homeowners.
For more information, visit: tax.ny.gov/pit/property/property-tax-relief.htm.
And if you think you are due a check and didn't get one, you can call 518-457-2036.
A separate STAR check
New homeowners who are income eligible also receive a separate tax-rebate check.
People who bought their property after Aug. 1, 2015, and whose household earnings are less than $500,000 get a check for their total STAR rebate.
But those who have owned their homes prior to Aug. 1, 2015, still receive the STAR rebate as an upfront savings that comes off their school-tax bill, rather than a check.
The state has issued 343,000 STAR checks this year and were largely sent out before Sept. 30 — when most school taxes in New York are due, according to the tax department.
To register for STAR or for more information, visit: www.tax.ny.gov/pit/property/star/default.htm