Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Change of Name or Address
    1. **Changes of address at any other office than the ones below could result in tax bills being mailed to the incorrect address. **
      1. Personal Property

      Vehicles: You must change your name or address with SCDMV at scdmvonline.com or 1-803-896-5000.
      Watercraft: You must change your name or address with DNR at dnr.sc.gov or 843-953-9301.
      Aircraft: You must change your name or address with FAA registry at registry.faa.gov or 1-866-762-9434.
      Documented Vessels: You must change your name or address with the US Coast Guard at uscg.mil/nvdc or 1-800-799-8362.
      Merchant accounts: You must change your name or address with DOR at dor.sc.gov or 1-803-898-5000.
      Business Furniture, Fixtures & Equipment accounts: For a Berkeley County Business Personal Property Return, (County Jurisdiction Form 96) you must change your name or address with the Berkeley County Auditor’s Office at webaud@berkeleycountysc.gov or 843-719-4309. For a SC State Business Personal Return, (State Jurisdiction Form PT100) you must contact the SC Department of Revenue at 803-898-5222.
    2. 2. Motor Vehicles
      • According to State Law, you must notify the SCDMV (SC Department of Motor Vehicles) of any change of address.
      • The Auditor’s office uses records provided by the SCDMV to generate vehicle property tax bills and where to mail your tax bill.
      • An incorrect address on file with the SCDMV could result in paying the wrong tax amount. It can also cause a delay in receiving your renewal registration and decal for your license plate.
    3. 3. Watercraft
      • According to State Law, you must notify SCDNR (SC Department of Natural Resources) to register your newly acquired boat.
      • The Auditor’s Office uses records on file with SCDNR to determine which tax district you reside in and where to mail your tax bill.
      • An incorrect address on file with SCDNR could result in the incorrect tax amount being paid. This could delay the registration renewal process.
  2. Property Tax
    1. 1. How do property taxes work?
      There are three parts to the property tax system:
      • The Tax Rate – This amount is usually reflected in the mills or millage rate.
      • Assessment Ratio – The percentage of the property’s value that is subject for taxation according to South Carolina State Law.
      • Fair Market Value – A reasonable amount for which property can be sold to a willing buyer.
    2. 2. What does the term Assessment Ratio mean?
      Assessment Ratio - The percentage of your property's value which is subject for taxation. The South Carolina Constitution provides for the following ratios to be applied to the market or use the value of property to arrive at the assessed value:
      • Home (legal residence) 4%
      • Second Home (for any residential property where you do not live) 6%
      • Agriculture real property (private owned) 4%
      • Agriculture real property (corporate owned) 6%
      • Commercial real property 6%
      • Manufacturing real and personal property 10.5%
      • Utility real and personal property 10.5%
      • Railroads, pipelines 9.5%
      • Aircraft 6%
      • Watercraft 10.5%
      • Business Personal Property 10.5%
      • Vehicles 6%
    3. 3. When is my payment considered late if mailed?
      • The postmark must be no later than the date due to avoid a late penalty.
      • If the due date should fall on a weekend or a holiday, the due date would be the following business day.
    4. 4. To whom do I dispute my vehicle tax amount to?
      There are three ways to dispute your vehicle tax bill:
      1. Appeal of Vehicle Taxes - You may appeal any vehicle property tax on your vehicle by contacting the Auditor's Office. You may apply for a reduction of taxes based on a dealership giving you a written appraisal (complete with the vehicle’s make, model, year, and vin number) signed and dated by a manager. According to State Law, this appeal must be done by the last day of the month in which the tag expires. If you miss this deadline, you cannot appeal your tax bill for that year.
      2. High Mileage Appeal - The high mileage section on the tax bill may be completed and faxed, emailed, mailed or brought into the office for an updated bill. You must apply before the last day of the month in which the tag expires.
      3. Car Dealership Purchase Appeal – These bills may only be appealed by the bill of sale or buyers order. The sticker or cash price (rebates cannot be included) must be less that the appraised value on your bill. According to State Law, this appeal must be done by the 120-day mark from the date of purchase of the vehicle. If you miss this deadline, you cannot appeal your bill until the renewal year.
  3. Personal Property Tax
    1. What is personal property tax?
      • Personal Property – Personal property is all things other than real estate which have value. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, campers, and motor homes are taxed yearly in the same month they were originally registered at the SCDMV. Marine equipment, aircraft, and items used in a business such as furniture, fixtures and equipment are also taxed yearly, but are taxed based on ownership as of December 31st of the previous year.
    2. When are personal property taxes due?
      • Real estate, marine equipment, aircraft, and items used in a business such as furniture, fixtures and equipment are billed in arears and mailed out in October of every year and are due by January 15th of the following year. If paid after January 15th, late penalties will be charged.
      • Cars, trucks, motorcycles, campers, and motorhome taxes are billed in the future and are due the last day of the month in which the license expires.
    3. How do you determine the value of my watercraft?
      • Marine equipment tax information is provided to each county by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. By Law, the Auditor's Office is required to tax using this information. (Boats are taxed at 10.5%. The tax rate is subject to a reduction of 4% if they are used as a primary residence. If you use the interest paid for the boat on your income tax return as a second home, the taxes can be lowered to a 6% rate). You may print and complete the form on our web page to submit to our office for approval and tax reduction. For any further questions you may contact the Department of Natural Resources at:
      1000 Assembly Street
      Rembert Dennis Bldg., Room 104
      Columbia, SC 29202
      803-734-3857
       or  217 Fort Johnson Road
      Charleston, SC 29422
      843-762-5000
      • Marine equipment valued at $500.00 or less is exempt from property taxes.
      • If you are active duty military, stationed in SC claiming another state as your home of record, marine equipment in your name may be exempted from property taxes. A current leave and earning statement (LONG FORM) must be filed with the Auditor’s Office.
    4. Is it possible to appeal the value of my watercraft?
      • You may appeal the value of your watercraft by submitting a bill of sale or a written dealer appraisal to the Auditor’s office.
    5. Are boat trailers taxable?
      • Boat trailers are no longer taxed. The taxpayer may obtain a license tag from the SCDMV to allow the trailer to be pulled across SC state lines. An exempt tax receipt may be obtained from the Auditor’s Office.
    6. Are utility trailers taxable?
      • Utility trailers with a power-towing unit and a GVW equal to or less than 26,000 lbs does not require a property tax receipt. You may go to any local SCDMV office and pay a one-time fee to obtain a permanent license plate.
      • Utility trailers in a business name with a GVW of equal to or less than 26,000 lbs does require a paid tax receipt.
    7. How are Business Personal Property taxes determined?
      • The South Carolina Code of Regulations Chapter 117-1840-1 states: The fair market value of merchants’ furniture, fixtures and equipment shall be the depreciated value as shown by the merchants’ records for South Carolina income tax purposes, provided however; that in no event is the original cost of the property to be reduced by more than ninety percent of the original capitalized costs.
      • Any property licensed in the State of South Carolina such as vehicles, marine equipment or aircraft would not be included on the return. Leased and/or rented equipment should not be included on the return.
    8. What are the penalties for failure to file the Business Personal Property tax return?
      • South Carolina Law states that all items of personal property used in a business shall be assessed for property tax purposes. It also states that all businesses are required to file a personal property tax return on or before April 30th or 120 days after the close of their accounting period regularly employed for income tax purposes. A 10% penalty is added for late filing. There are no provisions for extensions.
    9. What form do I use to file my Business Personal Property tax?
      • Businesses with a retail license must file a form PT100 to South Carolina Department of Revenue. This form is available on the SC Department of Revenue web site. For additional Information you may contact the SC Department of Revenue at (803)898-5222.
      • All other businesses must file a return with the Berkeley County Auditor’s office. A copy of the return may be printed from the Business Personal Property Return (PDF).
  4. Motor Vehicle Tax
    1. How is the value of my vehicle determined?
      • The South Carolina Department of Revenue provides each county with assessment guides that are required to be used as a first source to value vehicles. The second source is the NADA Vehicle Guide.
      • These values are multiplied by the assessment ratio set by the Law to determine the amount of taxes owed on a vehicle.
      • The assessed value is then multiplied by the millage rate to determine the amount of taxes owed on a vehicle.
    2. How is the assessed value of my vehicle calculated?
      • According to Law Code: Title 12, Chapter 37, Section 12-37-268 vehicle assessments are determined by guides given to each county by the South Carolina Department of Revenue.
      • These guides are used to calculate the taxes due in accordance with the mills for the district in which you reside within the county.
    3. When are my vehicle taxes due?
      • Property tax on motor and recreational vehicles must be paid before the license plates can be renewed.
      • The renewal month is the month that the vehicle was originally registered in.
      • If the vehicle is new to the State or if you have purchased it from an individual, it’s required by Law to pay the property taxes and have the vehicle registered within 45 days.
    4. How do I apply for the high mileage discount on my renewal bill?
      • You may apply for the high mileage discount by completing the high mileage portion of the tax bill. This may be mailed, faxed, or emailed. According to State Law, you must request the high mileage discount on or before the last day if the month in which your license plate expires.
    5. When the dealer tells me they take care of the taxes and tags, why did I receive a tax bill?
      • The dealership collects your South Carolina Sales Tax and DMV license plate fee. The bill you will receive is for the personal property taxes. Since the dealer is the only one who can purchase a license plate before the property taxes are paid, you will be given 120 days from your purchase date to pay your property taxes. If the property taxes are not paid at the end of the 120-day mark, your driver’s license may be suspended.
    6. What do I need to do if I purchase a vehicle from an individual?
      • If you have purchased a vehicle from an individual, the property taxes must be paid before you can register the vehicle at the SCDMV. A copy of the title or bill of sale must be emailed, faxed or brought into the Auditor's Office for a tax bill to be prepared. The paid tax receipt must be taken to the SCDMV. You may go online to scdmvonline.com to see what additional information the SCDMV may require. You have 45 days to register your vehicle.
    7. How do I get a 45-day temporary license plate?
      • A person who newly acquires a vehicle may purchase a 45-day temporary tag from a South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles branch office.
    8. What do I do if I receive a tax bill on a vehicle that I have sold?
      • If the bill you receive is a renewal bill, you may disregard the bill. However; you must turn in the license plate back to any SCDMV office within 30 days of the sale.
      • If the bill is a Car Dealership Purchase bill, you will need to contact the Berkeley County Auditor’s Office. You may owe all or a portion of the bill. Disregarding this bill could result your driver’s license being suspended.
    9. What do I do if I want to transfer my license plate to another vehicle?
      • If you have a valid license plate from a previously owned vehicle in your name that has not expired, you may transfer the plate to your new vehicle. The tag from the previous vehicle and the title or bill of sale for the newly acquired vehicle must be taken to the SCDMV to have it transferred. Property taxes are not due on the new vehicle until the plate is ready for renewal.
    10. What do I do with a South Carolina license plate once I’ve moved out of state?
      • When you move out of South Carolina and have registered your vehicle in another state, you must mail your South Carolina registration and license plate back to the SCDMV.
      • If the license plate has not expired, you may qualify for a refund. You may fax, email, mail or bring into the office a copy of your new registration complete with your new mailing address to apply for a refund.
    11. What do I do if I move to Berkeley County from another county in South Carolina?
      • You must update your address with the SCDMV and then contact the Berkeley County Auditor’s Office.
    12. How do I apply for the military exemption if I am active duty military?
      • The Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act exempts military personnel and their spouses (whose HOME OF RECORD is somewhere other than the State of South Carolina), from paying Berkeley County Property Taxes.
      • If you are active duty military stationed in South Carolina and claim another state as your home of record, vehicles (as well as leased vehicles) with a title in your name and/or your spouse's name may be exempted from property taxes. A current Leave and Earning Statement (LES) must be filed with the Auditor's Office yearly. If your spouse is on the title as a co-owner or alone, a copy of their dependent ID card or copy of your marriage license must be presented in addition to the military member’s LES every year. Only active duty military personnel and their spouses may be exempt. Any other names on the title with the active duty military member’s name will result in the bill being half exempt.
      • You may also qualify for the military exemption if you are stationed elsewhere but you have family members still living in Berkeley County or if you own property in Berkeley County.
      • If you claim South Carolina as your home of record, you do not qualify for the exemption.
      • If you are in the Reserves, you are not eligible for the exemption.
    13. Is there a senior citizen discount for vehicle taxes?
      • There is no senior citizen discount on vehicle taxes.
  5. Exemptions
    1. What is the Homestead Exemption Program and how do I know if I qualify? If so, how do I apply for the Program?
      • The Homestead Exemption Program exempts the first $50,000 from the taxable value of your primary residence.
      • You may apply for the Homestead Exemption any time after you reach the age of 65 and have lived in South Carolina for a full calendar year. Since house taxes are billed in arrears, you won’t see the discount on your bill until the year after you turn 65.
      • You may also qualify for the Homestead Exemption if you have been declared totally and permanently disabled by Social Security or if you have been declared legally blind by a licensed ophthalmologist.
      • If you are applying due to age, bring your birth certificate or photo ID and your social security card for each person(s) listed on the deed or title.
      • If you are applying due to your Social Security disability, you must provide your entitlement letter complete with your effective disability date. If you are applying due to being totally blind, you must provide a letter from your physician complete with the date your condition began.
    2. Are there any tax reductions for an individual who is required to use a wheelchair?
      • You may be eligible for two personal vehicles to be exempt from property taxes that are owned or leased either solely or jointly by the person required to use a wheelchair. You must provide the vehicle’s registration card, bill of sale or title. You must also provide a signed physician’s statement on their letterhead certifying the required use of wheelchair on a permanent basis, complete with the effective date.
    3. Are there any tax reductions if my minor child is required to use a wheelchair?
      • One personal vehicle owned or leased by the parent or legal guardian of a minor child who is blind or requires the use of a wheelchair when the vehicle is used to transport the minor. You must provide the vehicle’s registration card, bill of sale, or title and a physician’s statement certifying the minor child is blind or requires the use of a wheelchair complete with the effective date. You will also need a copy of the birth certificate showing parent(s) name or court documentation of legal guardianship.
    4. Do I get a tax reduction for being a disabled veteran?
      • If you are a veteran who is 100% totally and permanently service connected disabled, you may be eligible for and exemption on two of your vehicles. The Auditor’s Office will need a copy of a letter from the Veteran’s Administration certifying that the total and permanent disability is due to a service connection. In addition, the registration card or bill of sale of the vehicle(s) to be exempted must be presented to the South Carolina Department of Revenue for approval. This can be done by filling out the PT-401-I form and sending it to the SCDOR. Once the SCDOR has granted its approval, a letter will be mailed to the veteran. This letter can be brought in to the Berkeley County Auditor’s Office to have your vehicle(s) exempted from property tax. Any property taxes paid after the entitlement date will be refunded.
      • To qualify for this exemption, the vehicle must be registered solely in the name of the disabled veteran or jointly owned with a spouse. If the spouse has a different last name than the veteran, a marriage license must be provided. If the vehicle is jointly owned with anyone other than a spouse, it would be disqualified from receiving the exemption.
      • This exemption is also allowed for a surviving spouse for one vehicle owned or leased for their lifetime or until they remarry.
      • If you are applying as a surviving spouse, you must provide a copy of the Veteran’s death certificate, documentation from the Veterans Administration that you are the surviving spouse of the veteran, and a copy of the vehicle registration card, bill of sale or title showing you are the sole owner of the vehicle.
    5. Are there any tax reductions for being a prisoner of war?
      • If you were a Prisoner of War (POW) in WWI, WWII, the Korean Conflict or the Vietnam Conflict, you are entitled to an exemption on two vehicles owned or leased solely by the POW or with a spouse. A certificate from the Veteran’s Administration certifying you were a POW, in addition the registration card or bill of sale of the vehicle(s) to be exempted must be presented to the South Carolina Department of Revenue for approval. This can be done by filling out the PT-401-I form and sending it to SCDOR. Once SCDOR has granted the approval, a letter will be mailed to the POW. This letter may be brought in to the Berkeley County Auditor’s Office to have your vehicle(s) exempted from property tax. Any property taxes paid after the entitlement date will be refunded.
      • To qualify for this exemption, the vehicle must be registered solely in the name of the POW or jointly owned with a spouse. If the spouse has a different last name then the POW, a marriage license must be provided. If the vehicle is jointly owned with anyone other than a spouse, it would be disqualified from receiving the exemption.
      • This exemption is also allowed for a surviving spouse for one vehicle for their lifetime or until they remarry.
      • If you are applying as a surviving spouse, you must provide a copy of the POW’s death certificate, documentation from the Veterans Administration that you are the survivor of the POW, and a copy of the vehicle registration card, bill of sale or title showing you are the sole owner of the vehicle.
    6. Do I get a tax reduction for being a Medal of Honor recipient?
      • If you are a Medal of Honor recipient you are entitled to an exemption on two vehicles owned or leased solely by the Medal of Honor Recipient. You must present a certificate from the Veteran’s Administration certifying you are a Medal of Honor Recipient and the registration card or bill of sale of the vehicle(s) to be exempted.