If you receive a STAR exemption on your school tax bill you are probably getting less money than you should.

Recent changes to the STAR program have further confused this already complicated rebate program for homeowners. The School Tax Relief program is open to any New York State homeowner who has an income of $500,000 or less. Since the 1990s, qualifying homeowners have received savings as a discount on their yearly school tax bill.

Now those rules have changed.

Anyone who purchased a home after 2015 does not receive a discount on their tax bill. Instead, they get a reimbursement check in the mail. And that check may be more than what other homeowners are getting in deductions from their bill. In an effort to switch homeowners over to checks instead of discounts, New York State is giving check recipients a slightly higher rebate.

So, if you've lived in your home for more than four years, you're probably getting a smaller STAR rebate than newer homeowners who are receiving a rebate by check. But, there is an easy way to make up the difference.

Whether they like it or not, homeowners making over $250,000 a year will automatically start receiving a check this year instead of seeing a discount on their tax bill. Although they will see more money, some homeowners say the headache of dealing with escrow isn't worth it. While they'll be getting a slightly larger check, monthly mortgage bills will now be higher. And if rebate checks don't arrive before the tax bill is due, they will have to put out the money first.

Homeowners making under $250,000 won't see any changes to their discount unless they want to switch to a rebate check. If you're happy receiving a rebate right on your tax bill you don't have to do anything. If, however, you think the extra savings are worth adjusting your monthly payments, or if you already pay your tax bill in full every year, you can switch over to checks by registering on the STAR Program website.

It's a complicated system, but one that saves New York State homeowners a considerable amount of money on their school taxes. So, it's important to make sure you're taking full advantage of whatever savings you're due. For more information, visit the STAR website.

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