South Carolina Real Property Tax Ultimate Guide for Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester Counties
What is a tax? Real and Personal Property
A tax (from the Latin taxo) is a financial charge or other levy imposed upon a taxpayer (an individual or legal entity) by a state or the functional equivalent of a state to fund various public expenditures.
If you own a property you have to pay for it to your government annually without fail. With revenue from the taxes government pays for many services we use every day such as police, schools, libraries, animal control, etc. Property tax represents about 20% of all taxes.
Make sure not to confuse ‘Real Property’ with ‘Personal Property’ –
Personal Property is movable property: All things other than real estate which have value such as cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles and airplanes and items used in a business such as furniture, fixtures and equipment.
Real property is immovable property: all land and the buildings, structures or improvements on that land.
Calculating your taxes in Charleston, Dorchester, and Berkeley Counties, SC
You already know what real property tax is, so the next question is how to calculate it. It is pretty simple! First of all here is a quick formula:
the Fair Market Value of Your House(land)
the Assessment Ratio
the Millage Rate
the Potential Deduction
These tools you might find pretty useful when calculating your real property taxes:
- https://smartasset.com/taxes/south-carolina-property-tax-calculator (State of South Carolina)
- http://www.charlestoncounty.org/departments/auditor/tax-estimator.php (Charleston County)
- http://berkeleycountysc.gov/drupal/tax_estimator (Berkeley County)
- https://www.dorchestercounty.net/tax_estimate_form (Dorchester County)
Now let’s define the key formula terms:
Fair Market Value – The amount for which property can reasonably be expected to sell on the open market with a willing buyer and a willing seller.
Assessment Ratio – The percentage of your property’s value which is subject to taxation.
Millage Rate – The amount of mills levied in order to meet the budget of a school district, county, city or other political subdivision. One mill equals 1/1000 of a dollar or 1/10 of a cent. If the tax rate is 256 mills, multiply .256 by the assessed value to determine the amount of property tax due.
Millage Rate is different for each county, so be attentive when calculating your taxes due.
Latest numbers as if January 2017:
For Charleston county it is .05980
For Berkeley county it is .05050
For Dorchester county it is .08440
Assessment Ratio can vary greatly depending on the property type.
The current assessment ratios for the state of South Carolina are as follows:
- Primary Residences 4 percent fair market value
- Other Real Estate 6 percent fair market value
- Agricultural Property (privately owned) 4 percent fair market value
Agricultural Property (corporate owned) 6 percent use value
Calculating your Taxes in Charleston, SC
Suppose the fair market value of your house in the Charleston area is $400,000 and the assessment rate for primary residence is 4%. The assessed value would be $16,000. Now taking the millage rate of .0598 (of January 2017, Charleston county), the tax due would be $956,8 ($16,000 x .0598).
Who and how determines my property value? Reassessment
Each property is assessed by the county assessor. The assessor has all the information about each piece of property, such as size, building permits, square footage, as well as others. Relying on all this data the assessor comes up with the fair market value of your home.
There are 3 approaches that assessing person may use. They are: Sale Comparison Approach, Cost Approach, Income Approach.
Sale Comparison Approach
This is a real estate appraisal method that compares a piece of property to other properties with similar characteristics that have been sold recently and in the same area.
In cost approach appraisal, the market price for the property is equal to the cost of land plus cost of construction, less depreciation. This method is best used when the property is new, however, the cost approach methodology requires certain assumptions, such as the availability of land. If a comparable vacant land is not available, then the value must be estimated, which makes the appraisal less accurate. This is not a popular approach for appraising the residential real estate.
The income approach is typically used for income-producing properties. When using the income approach for purchasing a rental property, an investor considers the amount of income generated and other factors to determine how much the property may sell for under current market conditions.
More detailed explanations are available on http://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/sales-comparison-approach.asp
Reassessment is the process of revaluing all the property in the county to assign new values for tax purposes. The property value can change over time due to the market fluctuations. As these changes happen at a different pace, some owners pay more or less taxes in proportion to their property’s current value. The purpose of reassessment is to equalize the tax burden among all the owners.
The statutes of South Carolina provide for reassessment every five years and you get the legal notice about the changes as of December 31 of the prior year. This notice is not a bill, it just notifies.
If you have any questions or need more details about assessment and reassessment in your County, please visit one of these:
- http://www.charlestoncounty.org/departments/assessor/index.php (Charleston County)
- http://berkeleycountysc.gov/drupal/realproperty_assessment (Berkeley County)
- https://www.dorchestercounty.net/assessor (Dorchester County)
- Recent Reassessment flyer for Charleston https://www.charlestoncounty.org/departments/assessor/files/Reassessment-Flier-2015.pdf
Due dates and penalties
Taxes are paid annually.
Property Tax Calendar
- October 1 – Property tax rolls are opened
- January 15 – Property taxes for the prior year must be paid to the county treasurer no later than this date.
- January 16 through February 1 – Property taxes for the prior year paid during this period are subject to a penalty of 3%
- February 2 through March 16 – An additional penalty of 7% is added to taxes for the prior year paid during this period
- March 17 and later – An additional penalty of 5% is added to taxes for the prior year paid after March 16 and the county treasurer or the delinquent tax collector begins steps to sell the property to collect the delinquent taxes.
If you are mailing your property tax payment, it must be postmarked no later than the due date to avoid penalty. If the due date falls on a weekend or a state holiday, the due date is extended to the next business day afterwards.
You can pay all of your taxes ONLINE on these governmental websites for Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester Counties, SC:
- http://sc-charleston-county.governmax.com/svc/online_payment (Charleston County)
- http://server1.berkeleycountysc.gov/disclaimer/payonline (Berkeley County)
- http://dorchestercountytaxesonline.com/taxes_pay_online (Dorchester County)
If you prefer going to the tax office yourself, doing it via mail or just have additional questions visit:
- http://www.charlestoncounty.org/departments/treasurer (Charleston County)
- https://www.berkeleycountysc.gov/drupal/treasurer (Berkeley County)
- http://www.dorchestercountytaxesonline.com/treasurer (Dorchester County)
If you have a mortgage the treasurer or tax collector may send the tax bill directly to your mortgage company. You need to know that there are four factors that play a role in the calculation of a mortgage payment and the taxes is one of them. (The four items are principal, interest, TAXES, and insurance. If you want to read about each please click on this link http://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/05/022405.asp)
Taxes are calculated by the government on a per-year basis, but individuals can pay these taxes as part of their monthly payments. The amount that is due in taxes is divided by the total number of monthly mortgage payments in a given year. The lender collects the payments and holds them in escrow until the taxes are due to be paid. What means that your money to pay taxes will be held by a third party (the escrow agent) until it receives the appropriate instructions.
You can call the county treasurer or tax collector to make sure the mortgage company paid the tax on your behalf.
Tax credits. Who and How. Deductions
Detailed classifications of who and how can reduce their taxes:
- South Carolina Association of Counties: http://www.sccounties.org/
- South Carolina Department of Revenue: https://dor.sc.gov/tax
- The Treasurer of South Carolina: http://treasurer.sc.gov/
- Property Tax Rates by Year: http://www.sccounties.org/property-tax-rates
- The Official Website of the State of South Carolina: http://www.sc.gov/Pages/default.aspx
- Tax Related Forms Charleston, SC: http://www.charlestoncounty.org/tax-forms.php
- Real Property Forms & Documents Berkeley, SC: https://www.berkeleycountysc.gov/forms&documents
- Forms & Documents Dorchester, SC: https://www.dorchestercounty.net/forms