Q&A: Can the board claim my STAR rebate?

Q. Why is it legal to assess me for my STAR rebate, for which I must satisfy certain eligibility requirements, and thus effectively deny me most of the benefits to which I am entitled--basically because of my age, while distributing it to owners who are not qualified? This smacks of ageism! Homeowners get to keep the STAR rebate to which they are entitled. Why am I discriminated against?

                               —Better with Age

A. “STAR is a New York State Tax Relief Program that lowers property taxes for certain owners. There are two levels of benefits—Basic STAR and Enhanced STAR,” says Peter I. Livingston, a managing partner and founder of the Manhattan-based law firm of Rosen Livingston & Cholst, LLP.

“There is no age requirement with respect to the Basic STAR in order to be a beneficiary of that program. The Enhanced STAR Program is for all owners who must be 65 years of age or older, except where there are spouses, registered domestic partners or siblings. Based upon the reader's inquiry, it may very well be that individuals who are below the age of 65 are indeed entitled to the Basic STAR credit. From the reader's description, it appears that she lives in a cooperative apartment, and the co-op has enacted an assessment equal to the amount attributable to an owner who is a beneficiary of a STAR credit. It must be remembered that the co-op pays taxes and is merely assessing back to the benefit of the co-op those amounts which are being returned pursuant to a STAR credit. 

“In the case of an individual who owns her own home, they have also paid taxes and are simply getting back a portion of the taxes in the form of tax relief.

“When a tax policy is involved, there is no age discrimination. Age discrimination is commonly referred to in cases of housing and/or employment discrimination. For example, when one fills out her form 1040 Tax Return, there is an additional benefit for senior citizens. This is not something that is given to all taxpayers. In the case of a STAR credit, there is no age discrimination It should be noted, however, that the reader indicates that the funds attributable to a STAR credit are being "distributed to the owners" This would not be appropriate if some owners were assessed while others were not. All shareholders must be treated the same.”

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