The beginning of the year seems to be the time to think about ways to save money. One of those ways is to explore property tax exemptions. The STAR exemption for school taxes has been helpful to many property owners.
If you have received the basic STAR exemption in the past, recent legislation required everyone to register with the NYS Tax Department by Dec. 31 to activate the exemption for 2014 and future years. As of Jan. 28, www.tax.ny.gov indicates that while the deadline has passed, registrations are still being accepted. A call to the office on Jan. 24 confirmed that registrations are still being accepted, but no information was available regarding when the ability to register would stop.
If you do not complete the registration for 2014, you will not receive the exemption and will need to register before Dec. 31 to have it reinstated for 2015. Basic STAR eligibility includes home ownership and that the home is your primary residence, no age restriction and income of $500,000 or less.
The Enhanced STAR is for property owners 65 or older with income of $81,900 or less, for their primary residence. To receive the Enhanced STAR, you must apply by March 1 of each year through your town assessor or participate in the income verification program. The income verification program involves completing a form in addition to the STAR application, supplying your Social Security number and authorizing the Department of Taxation and Finance to verify your income annually.
Other tax exemptions besides STAR also exist. Many veterans are eligible for tax exemptions, for county and some town and village taxes. Senior citizens may also qualify based on income. The county income limit is $16,000 per year, with towns and villages ranging from $9,000 to $16,000, with one village in Otsego County not offering an exemption. There also may be exemptions for business investment or solar or wind energy.
Your town or village assessor should be able to assist with information regarding the income or other qualifications for any of these exemptions for the town or village in which you live. The listing of Otsego County Assessors is on the Otsego County website under the Real Property Tax Department at www.otsegocounty.com/depts/rps/. County residents 60 or older may call the Office for the Aging at 547-4232 to obtain the contact information for your assessor.
Based on your income and other factors, there are other programs that you may be eligible for. Assistance for heating costs may be available through the Home Energy Assistance Program. Monthly income limits are $2,175 for a single person, $2,844 for a two-person household and $3,513 for a three-person household. Income limits increase for larger household sizes. HEAP is available for a limited time each year. The closing date has not yet been determined for this year, but interested parties should request and submit an application as soon as possible. You can apply online by going to www.myBenefits.ny.gov or download an application at http://otda.ny.gov/programs/heap/apply. County residents 60 and older may call Office for the Aging.
Another way to help save money with Medicare B premium costs and Medicare prescription drug costs is through Medicare Savings Programs. There are several different programs that provide assistance to individuals with monthly income up to $1,313 or a couple with income up to $1,765. Health insurance premiums may be able to be used to reduce excess income. If your income is somewhat about this you may qualify for Extra Help with Medicare prescription costs through the Social Security Administration. Assistance is available for Medicare beneficiaries and/or their caregivers through most Offices for the Aging. Otsego County residents may call 547-4232 or (855) 547-4390.
Frances Wright is director of the Otsego County Office for the Aging. ‘Senior Scene’ columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/seniorscene.