Frequently Asked Questions

Index

I. Change of Name/Address

How do I change my name/address on my tax records?

  1. Real Property
  2. Personal Property (Address Changes)
  3. Motor Vehicles
  4. Watercraft and Boats/Motors

II. Property Tax

  1. How does the property tax system work?
  2. What do you mean by assessment?
  3. If mailing payment, the postmark needs to be prior to what date to be on time?
  4. Who do I complain to about high taxes?
  5. What is the value of a mill and does it change?
  6. How do I apply for a Military Exemption on my mobile home?
III. Real Property - Legal Residence/Second Home
  1. What is SC Tax Relief/Legal Residence Discount? Who qualifies? How do I know if I get it?
  2. I own a motor home. Can it qualify as my residence?
  3. I own a boat or watercraft. Can it quality as my residence?
  4. I own a trailer (camper) used for recreational travel that is pulled by a motor vehicle.  Can  it qualify as my residence?
IV. Personal Property Tax
  1. What is personal property?
  2. When are personal property taxes due?
  3. How is the value of personal watercraft/aircraft determined?
  4. I sold the personal property you billed me for, what do I do with this bill?
  5. Can I appeal the value on my boat or airplane?
  6. I own a business or residential rental property, how are taxes determined on the associated personal property?
  7. When are business and/or residential rental personal property tax returns due?
  8. What happens if I fail to file a business and/or residential rental personal property tax returns on time?
  9. Are all boats and motors taxable?
  10. Are boat trailers taxable?

V. Motor Vehicle Tax

  1. How do you determine what my motor vehicle is worth?
  2. What is the assessment ratio on motor vehicles in South Carolina?
  3. When are vehicle taxes due?
  4. How do I get a high-mileage adjustment?
  5. The dealer told me they would take care of the taxes and tag.  Why am I getting a tax bill?
  6. I received a tax bill on a vehicle I sold.  What do I need to do?
  7. To transfer my license plate to a different vehicle, what do I need to do?
  8. I moved out of state what should I do with my South Carolina license plate?
  9. I am on active duty, how do I apply for the military exemption?
  10. I am a senior citizen, how do I apply for that discount?
VI. County Administered Exemptions:
  1. Homestead Exemption Program
  2. Active Duty Military Exemption

VII. Other Exemptions:

  1. Disability Exemption
  2. Military Exemption:

I. Change of Name/Address

How do I change my name/address on my tax records?

1. Real Property

Contact the Treasurer's Office to complete the required address change form.

2. Personal Property (Address Changes)

"Address Changes At Any Other Office Except The Ones Listed Below May Result In Tax Bills Being Sent To Wrong Address"

  • Documented Vessels - address must be changed with the U.S.Coast Guard at  uscg.mil/nvdc  or 1-800-799-8362
  • Merchant accounts -  address must be changed with Department of Revenue at  dor.sc.gov  or 1-803-898-5000
  • FFE accounts - address must be changed with the County Auditors Office at  Auditor@bcgov.net  or 1-843-255-2500
  • Aircraft - address must be changed with FAA  registry.faa.gov  or 1-866-762-9434  
  • Motor Vehicles - address must be changed with SCDMV at   scdmvonline.com  or 1-803-896-5000
  • Watercraft- address must be changed with DNR at  dnr.sc.gov  or 1-843-953-9301 

3. Motor Vehicles:

  • In accordance with state law, you must notify the DMV (SC Department of Motor Vehicles).
  • It is DMVs record that we use to determine the taxable value of your vehicle.
  • DMV's record determines which taxing district you are in and where to mail your tax bill.
  • The wrong address on DMV’s records could result in paying too much tax or not receiving your tax bill.
  • This could delay the delivery or renewal of your registration and decal for your license plate.
  • Use the link below to print the form, complete it and mail it to DMV.
    SC Department of Motor Vehicle Form 4057

4. Watercraft and Boats/Motors:

  • In accordance with state law, you must notify the SC Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
  • 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 DNR’s records could result in paying too much tax or not receiving your tax bill, which can delay the registration renewal.
  • Use the link below to print the form, complete it and mail it to DNR.
    SC Department of Natural Resources - Change of Address Form

II. Property Tax

1. How does the property tax system work?

  • In simplified terms, there are three elements to South Carolina's property tax system:
  • Tax rate- The amount generally reflected in "mills," or "millage rate."
  • Assessment ratio- The percentage of the taxable value of property established by state law.
  • Market value- The fair market value for both real estate and personal property.

2. What do you mean by assessment ratio?  An assessment ratio is established by state law for each class of taxable property expressed as a percentage.  Is the fair 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.

3. 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.

4. Whom do I complain to about high taxes?

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


5. 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.
  • As your individual property increases or decreases in value, the value of a mill will increase or decrease in value on a county wide scale.

6. 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 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,other than spouse, 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 provide their latest Leave & Earnings Statement, or an Affidavit of Domicile (original with seal), to the Auditor's Office.  
  • You can hand deliver, mail, fax or email with notice these documents to the Auditor's Office to receive the exemption.   

III. Real Property - Legal Residence/Second Home

1. What is the SC Tax Relief/Legal Residence Discount? Who qualifies? How do I know whether I have it?

  • Property owners can apply for the SC Tax Relief/Legal Residence Discount for their one legal residence in the state of South Carolina.
  • This means that the qualifying property’s market value would be assessed at a ratio of four percent rather than six percent to obtain the property’s assessment (assessed value) for tax purposes.
  • Even on a “home place” some of the property may not qualify, for example, rental homes, second homes, commercial property, acreage above five acres, or property receiving another discount, such as agriculture use. You can look at the information in the upper right hand of your tax bill to see whether the billed property has Legal Residence.
  • The Assessor’s Office has the forms that you can pick up, fill out and submit in that office.
  • The property tax notice you received will have an assessment of 4% on the owner occupied line of the tax notice.

2. I own a motor home. Can it qualify as my residence?

A motor home that:

  • Is used as a primary or secondary residence; and
  • Is eligible for the mortgage interest deduction on a federal tax return; and
  • Has a bathroom, sleeping and cooking facilities, is eligible to be taxed as a residence. (IRS Publication 936 - Qualified Home Section)
  • However, the taxes are still due in advance, as for personal property, and to be taxed a residence, an application must be made with the County Auditor.
  • The property will be valued in the same manner as motor vehicles are for property tax purposes.

3. I own a boat or watercraft. Can it qualify as my residence?

A boat or watercraft that:

  • Is used as a primary or secondary residence; and
  • Is eligible for the mortgage interest deduction on a federal tax return; and
  • Has a bathroom, sleeping and cooking facilities, is eligible to be taxed as a residence. (IRS Publication 936 - Qualified Home Section)
  • The property will be valued in the same manner as motor vehicles are for property tax purposes.

4. I own a trailer (camper) used for recreational travel that is pulled by a motor vehicle.

     Can it qualify as my residence?

A travel trailer (camper) pulled by a motor vehicle that:

  • Is used as a primary or secondary residence; and
  • Is eligible for the mortgage interest deduction on a federal tax return; and
  • Has a bathroom, sleeping and cooking facilities, is eligible to be taxed as a residence. (IRS Publication 936 - Qualified Home Section)
  • However, the taxes are still due in advance, as for personal property, and to be taxed as a residence an application must be made with the County Auditor.
  • The property will be valued in the same manner as motor vehicles are for property tax purposes.

IV. Personal Property Tax

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

 

4. 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, 2005, you are responsible for paying the taxes by January 15, 2007. 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

5. 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.

  • The appeal of the value of the boat or airplane does not extend the due date of the taxes.
  • Auditor’s Office will then contact you to discuss your personal property appeal.

6. If I own a business or residential rental property, how are taxes determined on associated personal property?  Owners of businesses in Beaufort County using equipment, furniture, fixtures or machinery are required to file an annual personal property tax return with the Beaufort County Auditor.

7. When are business-related personal property tax returns due?  Returns must be filed by April 30 of each year.  In accordance with state law late applications post marked after April 30 will be subject to late penalties.

  • Currently, there are no provisions in the law to allow for an extension of filing returns.
  • 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 property taxes on it until January of the following year.

8. What happens if I don't file my business-related personal property tax return on time?  The County Auditor is required by law to estimate all accounts in which a return was not filed. In accordance with state law late applications post marked after April 30 will be subject to late penalties.   

  • Estimates may be higher than the original filed amount.

9. Are all boats & motors taxable?  Boats or outboard motors with a fair market value of $500 or less are not taxable.

10. Are boat trailers taxable?  No, not for personal use in South Carolina.

V. Motor Vehicle Tax

1. 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.  TAXPAYER NOTE: It is very important to review all the information on the tax bill.  A correction on the tax bill may result in a change in the taxes due.

  • All county auditors are required by law to 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, make of most available motor vehicles and is available to the taxpayer.
  • When values are not provided by DOR, then other nationally recognized sources are used.
  • When information identifying the specific vehicle is missing from the DMV record a review of the tax bill can identify a need to update information.  By contacting the Auditor's office to update the information it will ensure the tax bill moving forward will be accurate.
  • Vehicle information can be updated when the renewal tax bill is issued by providing the Auditor's office with a copy of the current title or specific documentation that identifies the vehicle.
  • 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 taxes owed.
  • Appeals of a vehicles taxed amount are timely, if received prior to the last day of the month in which the tax can be paid timely.

2. 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 including motorcycles from 10.5% to 6% over six years beginning with the 2002 tax year.

  • This reduced assessment ratio applies only to personal automobiles, personal light trucks, and personal motorcycles.
  • The laws were changed in 2006, to amend the gross vehicle weight to 11,000 lbs. or less and the net vehicle weight to 9,000 lbs or less.
  • All medium and heavy trucks classified by the manufacturer are valued at 10.5%.
  • All other motor vehicles will continue to be assessed at 10.5%.

3. 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 the vehicle will be here for 150 days or more.
  • For more information, contact the nearest office of the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV).

4. How do I get a high-mileage adjustment?  The amount of the high-mileage adjustment is based on a table provided by the SC Department of Revenue.

  • Use the high mileage chart to determine if your vehicle qualifies for the adjustment.
  • If it does, you may complete Motor Vehicle High Mileage Appeal form.
  • You may mail, fax, or personally present your appeal to the Auditor's office.
  • If you file an appeal, your appeal does not extend the due date. Your appeal may take up to 30 days to be reviewed by the Auditor.
  • 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 the expiration of your tag decal.
  • 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 at least 45 days before your vehicle tag renewal is due, contact the Auditor's office immediately.

5.  The dealer told me they would take care of the taxes and tag.  Why am I getting 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 personal property tax due on the vehicle.

6. I received a tax bill on a motor vehicle that I have sold. What do I need to do?  When you sell or dispose of a vehicle, you are required to surrender the license plate within 30 days of sale to a DMV Office.

  • If you surrendered the license plate to DMV, you may request a refund from the Auditor's office for the unused months remaining on the registration.
  • If you transferred the license plate to a new vehicle, follow the steps in the answer to the question below.
  • If you are transferring your vehicle license plate within the last 90 days of the expiration date, you may have problems with the renewal unless all paperwork has been processed timely with DMV.
  • Prior to transferring the license plate to your new vehicle, you should have a new registration decal on the license plate.

7. To transfer my license plate to a different vehicle, what do I need to do?  Take the registration of your previous vehicle and the Bill of Sale for your replacement vehicle to the Department of Motor Vehicles and register your replacement vehicle and perform the transfer.

  • You will not need to pay taxes on the replacement vehicle until the anniversary of the license plate/registration renewal month.
  • Legislation was passed requiring the Department of Motor Vehicle to develop a system that would prevent customers from transferring a license plate to a vehicle after the first time without first paying the property taxes.
  • This legislation was effective beginning January 1, 2006.
  • See the current State Appropriations 2007-2008 DMV Proviso 36A.7 for more details.

8. I moved out of state what should I do with my South Carolina license plate?  After you have registered your vehicle in your new state of legal residence,

  • Mail or bring your South Carolina plate and registration to DMV
  • DMV will send or give you form 5051
  • Auditor’s Office needs DMV form 5051 and proof of registration in your new state of residence
  • Refund will be processed for the unused months.

9. I am on active duty, how do I apply for the 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(and/or spouse) to qualify for 100% exemption (if ownership is joint,(other than spouse) 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, or an Affidavit of Domicile, to the Auditor's office.
  • You can mail, fax or deliver the form.
  • This exemption is valid for one year, and you will need to reapply every year.

           (Once PCS orders are executed transferring the Service Member to another state, all Personal Property Exemptions will not be renewed)

10. I am a senior citizen, how do I apply for that discount?  There is no senior citizen discount on motor vehicle taxes.

  • DMV does offer discounts on the semi-annual license renewal fee for persons 64 years of age or older. Check DMV FEES with this link.
  • 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.

VI. County Administered Exemptions:

1.  Homestead Exemption Program

What is the Homestead Exemption Program? 

 1. Homestead Exemption Program

The Homestead Exemption Program is provided as property tax relief for homeowners that are over age 65, or permanently disabled or legally blind.

 2. South Carolina Property Tax Relief

The most recent amendment to the South Carolina Property Tax Relief was granted to homeowners in Act 388 of 2006 .  This tax relief will be reflected on the 2007 tax year notices that will be mailed in October 2007.  In summary, the homeowner (Owner Occupied) will be exempt from paying school operations taxes.  The state in Act 388 increased sales tax by one-cent to fund the school operating exemption.

 3. South Carolina Property Tax Exemptions

The classification of exempt property from property taxes for South Carolina is listed in SC Code Section 12-37-220.

 How the Homestead Exemption Program Can Reduce Your Property Tax Bill

 Do I Qualify?

  • I hold complete fee simple title or life estate to my primary residence.
  • As of December 31, preceding the tax year of the exemption, I was a legal resident of South Carolina for one year
  • As of December 31, preceding the tax year of the exemption, I was 65 years of age, or was declared totally and permanently disabled by a state or federal agency having the authority to make such a declaration, or was legally blind as certified by a licensed ophthalmologist.

 If statements 1, 2, and 3 are true, you are qualified to receive the Homestead Exemption.

Surviving Spouse Benefit

The surviving spouse of a qualified or potentially qualified Homestead recipient may also receive the benefit if:

  • You are the surviving spouse of a qualified Homestead recipient
  • You are the surviving spouse of a person who was not otherwise qualified for the Homestead Exemption but failed to make application in the year that they would have received the exemption at the time of his/her death.    
  • Furthermore, if you remarry, you would not qualify for the surviving spouse benefit for the Homestead Exemption. 

When can I apply for the Homestead Exemption on my primary residence

Application Period
The year after you turned 65 or classified 100% disabled or legally blind, apply between January 1st and July 15th.   If a written application for the exemption is received after July fifteenth, the exemption can only be granted for the succeeding tax year.

Post-application Period
Apply in the year you are turning 66 for the upcoming tax year.  This can be done anytime after January 15th of that tax year you are applying. For example, if you turn 66 in 2016, then after January 15, 2016 you can apply for Homestead Exemption.

Where do I apply?

You may apply for the Homestead Exemption at the Beaufort County Auditor’s office. If you are unable to go to the Auditor’s office, an agent can make an application on your behalf.

What documents are needed?

Proof of your eligibility is required:

  1. If you are applying due to age, bring your birth certificate or Medicare card, and your South Carolina Driver’s License.
  2. If you are applying due to permanently or totally disability, you will need to present documentation from the state or federal agency certifying the disability and your South Carolina Driver’s License or South Carolina Identification.
  3. If you are applying due to blindness, you will need to present documentation from a licensed ophthalmologist and your photo Identification.

Do I need to re-apply annually?

 No.  It is not necessary to reapply annually, except when there is a change of ownership as a result of death or a change in occupancy.

When is it necessary to reapply?

 It is necessary to reapply when one of the following occurs:

  • Change in disability status
  • Change in ownership
  • Rental of your home
  • Remarriage of the surviving spouse 

What is the benefit?

The program exempts the first $50,000 of the value of your home from all property taxes.  See the following examples:

                                          Example Without Credit                        Example With Credit                       

Value of Home                                            $ 62,500                             $  62,500        

Less Homestead Credit                                $      -0-                             $ (50,000)       

“New” Value of Home                                  $ 62,500                             $ 12,500

Multiplied by 4% ratio =                                   2,500                                      500

Multiplied by millage                                          .285                                      .285 

Total taxes due =                                         $ 712.50                             $ 142.50

 

This is an example and may not apply the same benefit for your property.

 

Assistance

The Beaufort County Auditor’s  Office will answer any questions regarding eligibility status and application procedures.  Please call (843) 255-2500 for assistance.  All applications must be presented in person.

 

 2. Active Duty Military Exemption

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 that 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 titled in the name of the military service member in order to qualify for a 100% exemption, spouse can be included.
  • If there is a non-military co-owner,other than spouse, only the equal percentage of ownership will be applied for the military exemption.
  • In order for your mobile home to qualify, it must be the service member's primary residence.
  • To obtain the exemption, the service member can provide their latest Leave & Earnings Statement, or an Affidavit of Domicile (original with seal) , to the Auditor's Office.
  • The documents can be submitted by mail, fax, or in person.
  • The exemption is valid for only one tax year, so it will be necessary to reapply each year.
  • The exemption form can be picked up at the Auditor's Office.  DMV requires the original exemption form.

VII. Other Exemptions:

1. Disability Exemption

What property tax exemptions are available for the disabled?

  • You may quality for the Homestead Exemption Program
  • You may qualify for other disability exemptions.
  • All disability exemptions from property taxes are listed in Section B of the Department of Revenue’s Form 401I (Application for Exemptions Instructions). These instructions are from SC Code of Laws Section 12-37-220, General Exemptions from Taxes. The Application for Exemption Form 401 must be submitted to the Department of Revenue and a copy of the approval given to the County Auditor for the exemption of property taxes.

2. Military Exemption:

Are there any exemptions for active duty or retired military?

  • You may qualify for military exemption.
  • All military exemptions from property taxes are listed in Section B of the Department of Revenue’s Form 401I (Application for Exemptions Instructions). These instructions are from SC Code of Laws Section 12-37-220, General Exemptions from Taxes. The Application for Exemption Form 401 must be submitted to the Department of Revenue and a copy of the approval given to the County Auditor for the exemption of property taxes.

There is a Department of Revenue Office in Columbia at 301 Gervais Street, next to the State Museum. The telephone number is (803) 898-5000).