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Frequently Asked Questions
Change of Address/Name FAQs
Disability Exemption
Homestead Exemption FAQs
Military Exemption
Motor Vehicle Tax FAQs
Personal Property Tax FAQs
Real Estate Tax FAQs
Treasurer's Office FAQs
 
I. Change of Address/Name
Q: How do I change my address/name on my tax records ?
 
II. Disability Exemption
What property tax exemptions are available for the disabled ?
 
III. Homestead Exemption
What is the Homestead Exemption program?
How do I qualify for the Homestead Exemption?
Do I have to apply in person?
What documents do I need to apply?
Do I need to reapply annually?
 
IV. Military Exemption
What property is included in the Active Duty Military Exemption and how do I apply ?
Are there any special exemptions for POW's or Medal of Honor recipient?
 
V. Motor Vehicle Tax
How do you determine what my motor vehicle is worth?
What is the assessment ratio on motor vehicles in South Carolina?
When are vehicle taxes due?
How do I get a high-mileage discount?
When I bought my car, the dealership told me they would take care of the taxes and tags. Why did you send me a tax bill?
I received a tax bill on a motor vehicle that I have sold. What do I need to do?
If I want to transfer my license plate to a replacement vehicle, what do I need to do?
If I move out of this state, what should I do with my South Carolina license plate?
What do I need to do if my mailing address changes? Do I need to let the Auditor know?
How do I apply for an active-duty Military Exemption?
How do I apply for the senior citizen discount?
 
VI. Personal Property Tax
What is "personal property?"
When are personal property taxes due?
How is the value of personal watercraft/aircraft determined?
What are the assessment ratios for personal property in S.C.?
I sold the personal property you have billed me for. What do I do with this bill?
Can I appeal the value on my boat or airplane?
How can I claim my live-aboard boat as my primary residence?
How do I change my address on your records?
If I own a business or residential rental property, how are taxes determined on associated personal property?
When are business related personal-property tax returns due?
What happens if I don't file my business related personal-property tax return on time?
Are all boats & motors taxable?
Are boat trailers taxable?
What does the Military Exemption on personal property cover?
 
VII. Real Estate Tax
How does the property tax system work?
How is my property tax calculated?
What do you mean by "assessment"?
If I mail my tax payment, what is the last date it can be postmarked before being considered late?
Who do I complain to about high taxes?
What is the value of a mill and does it change?
How do I apply for a Military Exemption on my mobile home?



Change of Address/Name

Q: How do I change my address on my tax records ?

FOR REAL PROPERTY OR FOR BUSINESS-RELATED PERSONAL PROPERTY: You can use the following link to complete the required form and submit it online. Please submit a separate form for each piece of property you own.
http://www.charlestoncounty.org/departments/auditor/forms/changeaddressauditor.asp

FOR MOTOR VEHICLES: In accordance with state law, you must notify the DMV (SC Department of Motor Vehicles). It is their records that we use to determine which taxing district you are in and where to mail your tax bill. The wrong address on their records could result in your paying too much tax and in not receiving your license plate renewal decals on time.
http://www.scdmvonline.com

FOR BOATS/MOTORS: In accordance with state law, you must notify the SC Department of Natural Resources. It is their records that we use to determine which taxing district you are in and where to mail your tax bill. The wrong address on their records could result in your paying too much tax and in not receiving your license renewal decals on time.
http://water.dnr.state.sc.us/

Q: How do I change my name on my tax records ?

A name change cannot be done online since legal documentation is required. You can, however, print the form and then fax, mail or bring it by any of our office locations along with the documentation required (as stated on the form).
http://www.charlestoncounty.org/departments/auditor/forms/changenameauditor.asp

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Disability Exemption

Q: What property tax exemptions are available for the disabled ?


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Homestead Exemption Program

Q: What is the Homestead Exemption program?

In 1972, the S.C. General Assembly passed the Homestead Exemption Law which provides real estate property tax relief for South Carolinians who are age 65 and over, totally and permanently disabled, or legally blind. The exemption excludes the first $50,000 from the fair market value of your legal residence.

Example:
Without Homestead:   With Homestead:
Value of Home 100,000   Value of Home 100,000
Multiplied by 4% 4,000   Less Exemption -50,000
Multiplied by Sample Millage x .270   Adj. Value of Home = 50,000
Total Taxes = 1,080   Multiplied by 4% = 2,000
      Multiplied by Sample Millage x .270
      Total Taxes = 540

Please note: This example is a comparative guide and is provided as a general information tool only. The millage used in the example is a composite figure and does not represent current millage amounts. More detailed information can be obtained from the Charleston County Auditor's Office.

Q: How do I qualify for the Homestead Exemption?

You may be qualified for the Homestead Exemption if you

Q: Do I have to apply in person?

For this exemption, the qualifying homeowner can apply in person or by mail. Contact the auditor's office for more information.

Q: What documents do I need to apply

You will need to provide proof of eligibility by providing proof of your age or disability. To prove your age, you may use your Medicaid or Medicare card, a driver's license, or a birth certificate. If applying because of disability or blindness, bring certification from a state or federal agency. The agency must have the proper authority to make the certification.

Q: Do I need to reapply annually?

You do not need to reapply annually unless there is a change which affects the deed to your property. You do need to advise the Auditor's Office if:
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Military Exemption

Q: What property is included in the Active Duty Military Exemption and how do I apply?

If your home of record is not South Carolina, you do not have to pay personal property taxes on property which you own while permanently stationed in this state. This exemption does not include county taxes on real property. The exemption covers motor vehicles (including trucks), campers, motor homes, boats and outboard motors, personal recreational watercraft (like wave-runners and jet-skis), aircraft and mobile homes (occupied by the owner). The property must be singularly titled in the name of the military service member in order to qualify for a 100% exemption. If there is a non military co-owner, only 50% of the exemption will be applied. In order for your mobile home to be qualify, it must be the service member's primary residence. To obtain the exemption, the service member can submit their latest Leave & Earnings Statement to any of the
Auditor's Offices or complete a Military Exemption Application and submit it to any of the Auditor's Offices. The documents can be submitted by mail, fax, or in person. The exemption is valid for only one year, so you will need to reapply every year.

Q: Are there any special exemptions for POW's or Medal of Honor recipient?

If you were a POW or a Medal of Honor recipient, you may qualify for an exemption from property tax on up to two motor vehicles. Application should be made through the SC Department of Revenue (DOR). There is a DOR Charleston Service Centre at 3 Southpark Center, Suite 202, next to Citadel Mall (Phone 852-3600).
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Motor Vehicle Tax

Q: How do you determine what my motor vehicle is worth?

The S.C Department of Revenue (DOR) determines the value of motor vehicles within the state by using a set of nationally accepted standards and guidelines established by the auto industry.County auditors throughout the state use the DOR Motor Vehicle Values manual to establish the fair market value in preparing your motor vehicle tax bill. The manual lists each model and make of all available motor vehicles. The vehicle's fair market value is multiplied by the assessment ratio set by law to determine the assessed value. The assessed value is then multiplied by the millage rate to determine the amount of tax owed.Motor vehicle taxes are the only personal property taxes which are due a year in advance (in accordance with state law).

Q: What is the assessment ratio on motor vehicles in South Carolina?

An amendment to the South Carolina Constitution, Article X, Section 1(8)(B)(1) reduced the assessment ratio on personal motor vehicles from 10.5% to 6% over six years beginning with the 2002 tax year. This reduced assessment ratio applies to personal automobiles and personal light trucks with a gross vehicle weight of 9,000 lbs or less and a net vehicle weight of 7,000 lbs or less only. All other motor vehicles will continue to be assessed at 10.5%.
Tax Year Assessment Ratio

Q: When are vehicle taxes due?

Personal property taxes on motor vehicles and recreational vehicles must be paid before your license plates can be renewed. Taxes are due throughout the year on a staggered monthly schedule. You have 45 days after moving to South Carolina to register your vehicle. If you live in this state only part of the year and consider another state your home residence, you are still required to register your car in SC if you will be living here for 150 days or more. For more information, contact the nearest office of the DMV.

Q: How do I get a high-mileage discount?

Use the chart below to determine if your vehicle qualifies for a high-mileage discount. If it does, you may complete and submit the Motor Vehicle High Mileage Discount form online. If you prefer to print the form and submit it, just deliver it to any of the Auditor's offices by fax, mail, or in person. If you file an appeal, do not pay your tax bill until you have received a revised bill or a denial of your appeal. You should file the appeal early in the month so that you can receive a revised tax bill in time to pay it and renew your registration prior to expiration of your tag decal on the last day of the month. Once your renewal date has expired, appeals for high mileage cannot be granted for that year's taxes (in accordance with state law). If you do not receive a tax bill before your vehicle tag renewal is due, contact one of the Auditor's offices immediately. The amount of the high-mileage discount is based on a table provided by the SC Department of Revenue.

Vehicle Year Odometer Mileage (At Least) Vehicle Year Odometer Mileage (At Least) Vehicle Year Odometer Mileage (At Least)
2013 7,500 2008 75,001 2003 150,001
2012 15,001 2007 90,001 2002 165,001
2011 30,001 2006 105,001 2001 180,001
2010 45,001 2005 120,001 2000 195,001
2009 60,001 2004 135,001 1999 195,001
* Discount does not apply for vehicles made prior to 1997.

Q: When I bought my car, the dealership told me they would take care of the taxes and tags. Why did you send me a tax bill?

The dealership was referring to the state sales tax and the license plate. The bill you received from the County Auditor is for the county personal property tax due on the vehicle.

Q: I received a tax bill on a motor vehicle that I have sold. What do I need to do?

If you did not transfer your license plate to another one of your vehicles, you may disregard the tax bill. When you sell (or otherwise dispose of) a vehicle, you may turn in the license plate to the Auditor's office and be reimbursed for the unused months remaining on the registration. Incidentally, you cannot transfer your license plate to another vehicle unless both are titled in the same name.

Q: If I want to transfer my license plate to a replacement vehicle, what do I need to do?

Take the registration for your previous vehicle and the Bill of Sale for your replacement vehicle to the Department of Motor Vehicles and register your replacement vehicle. You will not need to pay taxes on the replacement vehicle until the registration on your previous one expires.

Q: If I move out of this state, what should I do with my South Carolina license plate?

After you have registered your vehicle in your new state of legal residence, you can mail (or bring) your South Carolina plate and registration, plus proof of registration in your new state of residence to the Auditor's office and receive a refund on the unused months.

Q: What do I need to do if my mailing address changes? Do I need to let the Auditor know?

The Auditor's office does not maintain address changes for motor vehicles. You need to be sure to notify the DMV, as it is their records that we use to determine which taxing district you are in and where to mail your tax bill. The wrong address on their records could result in your paying too much tax and in not receiving your license plate renewal sticker on time. If you own a boat/motor, you must also notify the S.C. Department of Natural Resources that your address has changed.

Q: How do I apply for an active-duty Military Exemption?

If your home of record is not South Carolina, you do not have to pay personal property taxes on your motor vehicles, or other personal property, while stationed in this state. The personal property must be registered in the service member's name to qualify for 100% exemption (if ownership is joint, only 50% of the exemption will apply). This exemption does not include county property taxes on real estate. The service member can submit their latest Leave & Earnings Statement to any of the Auditor's offices or complete a Military Exemption Application, have it signed by their commanding officer, and submit it to one of the Auditor's offices. You can mail, fax or deliver the form. This exemption is valid for one year, and you will need to reapply every year.

Q: How do I apply for the senior citizen discount?

There is no senior citizen discount on motor vehicle taxes. However, the DMV does offer a discount on the semi-annual license renewal fee to persons 64 years of age or older. For those 64 years old, the fee is $22 every two years instead of the regular $24, and for those who are 65 or older, the reduced fee is $20 every two years (instead of $24). Even though vehicle registration is renewed only every other year, it should be noted that county personal property taxes are due every year.

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Personal Property Tax

Q: What is "personal property"?

In South Carolina, personal property encompasses motor vehicles, recreational vehicles, aircraft and watercraft (including boats, motors, and personal recreational vehicles like wave runners and jet skis, etc.). Personal property tax also applies to equipment, furniture, fixtures and machinery primarily used by businesses.

Q: When are personal property taxes due?

With the exception of motor vehicles, personal property taxes must be paid by January 15 of the following year, unless that day falls on a county holiday or weekend. Personal property taxes on motor vehicles and recreational vehicles are due throughout the year on a staggered monthly schedule and must be paid before your license plates can be renewed.

Q: How is the value of personal watercraft/aircraft determined?

Values of personal property are kept current through annual updates by the S.C. Department of Revenue and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

Q: What are the assessment ratios for personal property in S.C.?

* Personal Motor Vehicles (Automobiles and light trucks 7,000 lbs or less)
 6.0% of fair market value
All Other Motor Vehicles 10.5% of fair market value
Watercraft (Boats & Outboard Motors)
Commercial Fishing Boats, Commercial Tugboats, & Pilot Boats
Boats as Primary Residence
  10.5% of fair market value
5.0% of fair market value
4.0% of fair market value
Aircraft 10.5% of fair market value
Business Personal Property 10.5% of fair market value
* and some qualified boats

Q: I sold the personal property you have billed me for. What do I do with this bill?

If you owned the property on December 31, preceding the current tax year, you are responsible for the taxes for that entire year. For example, if you owned a boat on December 31, 2006, you are responsible for paying the taxes which are due by January 15, 2008. Personal property is taxed in arrears (except for motor vehicles). If you purchase personal property on or after January 1, you will not have to pay county taxes on it until January of the following year. This information does not apply to motor vehicles (see MV FAQs).

Q: Can I appeal the value on my boat or airplane?

Yes, you have until the taxes are due to appeal in writing to the Auditor's office. A tax specialist will then contact you to set up a time to examine your personal property.

Q: How can I claim my live-aboard boat as my primary residence?

To qualify as a primary residence, the boat must contain cooking, sleeping and bathroom facilities (in accordance with federal tax requirements), and you must live aboard the boat. You are allowed only one primary residence assessment of 4 percent at any one time in the state of South Carolina. Apply at the downtown Auditor's Office. You must reapply for this special assessment each year (unlike with real estate ).

Q: How do I change my address on your records?

If you own a boat/motor, you need to notify the S.C. Department of Natural Resources that your address has changed . If you own business-related personal property, you need to complete a Change of Address form and submit it online or at any of the Auditor's offices. The form can be faxed, mailed or hand-delivered. For motor vehicles, be sure to notify the DMV, as it is their records that we use to determine which taxing district you are in and where to mail your tax bill. The wrong address on their records could result in your paying too much tax and in not receiving your license plate renewal sticker on time.

Q: If I own a business or residential rental property, how are taxes determined on associated personal property?

Owners of businesses using equipment, furniture, fixtures or machinery are required to file an annual personal property tax return with the Charleston County Auditor.

Q: When are business-related personal property tax returns due?

Returns must be filed by April 30 of each year. Currently, there are no provisions in the law to allow for an extension of filing returns. As with other forms of personal property (except motor vehicles), taxes are levied in arrears. If you owned the property on December 31 of the tax year, you are responsible for the taxes for that entire year. If you purchase personal property on or after January 1, you will not have to pay county taxes on it until January of the following year.

Q: What happens if I don't file my business-related personal property tax return on time?

The Auditor is required by law to estimate all accounts in which a return was not filed. Estimates may be higher than the original filed amount.

Q: Are all boats & motors taxable?

Boats or outboard motors with a fair market value of $500 or less are not taxable.

Q: Are boat trailers taxable?

No, not in South Carolina.

Q: What does the Military Exemption on personal property cover?

In South Carolina, the exemption covers automobiles (including trucks), campers, motor homes, boats and outboard motors, personal recreational watercraft (like wave-runners and jet-skis), aircraft and mobile homes occupied by the owner. The property must be singularly titled in the name of the military service member in order to qualify for a 100% exemption. If there is a non-military co-owner, only 50% of the exemption will be applied. To apply for the exemption, the service member can submit their latest Leave & Earnings Statement to any of the Auditor's offices or complete a Military Exemption Application and submit it to one of the Auditor's offices. You can mail, fax or hand-deliver the form. This exemption is valid for one year, and you will need to reapply every year.

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Real Estate Property Tax

Q: How does the property tax system work?

In simplified terms, there are three elements to South Carolina's property tax system: (1) the tax rate, (2) the assessment ratio, and (3) the property value. The tax rate is generally reflected in "mills," or "millage rate." A mill is simply a unit of monetary value equal to one tenth of a cent, or one thousandth of a dollar. For example, a tax rate of 150 mills translates to $.150 (15 cents) tax per $1.00 of assessed value. This is true for both real estate and personal property.

Q: What do you mean by "assessment"?

An assessment is the market value of a piece of property on a certain date, multiplied by the assessment ratio which applies to that piece of property, e.g., a 4% assessment ratio for an owner-occupied house.

Q: If I mail my tax payment, what is the last date it can be postmarked before being considered late?

It must be postmarked no later than the due date to avoid penalty. If the due date falls on a weekend or a county holiday, the due date is extended to the next business day afterwards.

Q: Who do I complain to about high taxes?

Taxes are set by the governing body/bodies where the property is located. Charleston County Council, the Charleston County School Board, and the applicable city council or special purpose district determines how much money must be collected to fund the budget and the rate of tax necessary to meet the budget. Property taxes make up only a portion of the total amount of revenue needed to fund the budget. Fees and other sources of income make up the remainder.

Q: What is the value of a mill and does it change?

The value of a mill is always one tenth of a cent, or one thousandth of a dollar. For example, a tax rate of 150 mills translates to $.150 (15 cents) tax per $1.00 of assessed value. This is true for all types of property. The amount of revenue which a mill brings in to a governing body, however, changes based on the value of all assessed property in the taxing area.

Q: How do I apply for a Military Exemption on my mobile home?

If your home of record is not South Carolina, you do not have to pay personal property taxes on property which you own while permanently stationed in this state. In order for your mobile home to qualify, it must be your primary residence. It must also be registered and titled in the service member's name to qualify for 100% exemption (if ownership is joint, only 50% of the exemption will apply). This exemption does not include county taxes on real property. To obtain the exemption, the service member can submit their latest Leave & Earnings Statement to any of the
Auditor's offices or complete a Military Exemption Application and submit it to one of the Auditor's offices. You can mail, fax or hand-deliver the form. This exemption is valid for one year, and you will need to reapply every year.

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