Congratulations, you have just purchased a home in South Carolina! While most action items related to the closing will be completed prior to and while at the closing table, there is one important step to take following your purchase. In South Carolina, whenever someone buys a piece of real estate property, it is initially assessed at a 6% ratio. However, if you will be using the property as your primary residence, then you are entitled to apply for and receive a 4% assessed ratio. In order to receive the lower assessment for the owner-occupied property, the property owner must submit an application with the County in which their property is located for approval.
While each County has its own application process, it will involve filling out a form with information about yourself and the property and submitting it to the County. Section 12-43-220(c) of South Carolina Code of Laws provides that, in addition to submitting the form, “the burden of proof for eligibility for the 4% assessment ratio is on the owner-occupant and the applicant must provide proof the assessor requires including, but not limited to: (A) a copy of the owner-occupants most recently filed South Carolina individual income tax return; (B) copies of South Carolina motor vehicle registrations for all motor vehicles registered in the name of the owner-occupant; (C) other proof required by the assessor necessary to determine eligibility for the assessment ratio allowed by this item.” Therefore, you should plan to update your Driver’s License and Car registration to the new property address for both you and your spouse after you close, as well as have a copy available of your most recently filed South Carolina individual income tax return. You should apply for the 4% assessment ratio before the first penalty date for the payment of taxes for the tax year for which you first claim eligibility for the owner occupied assessment.
While the difference between a 4% and 6% assessed ratio for property taxes may not initially appear to be extremely substantial, in practice it is. If you do not apply for the 4% assessed ratio, you can expect the amount owed yearly on your property taxes to almost triple. Therefore, it is important to not forget to complete this important step after you close on your home purchase in South Carolina.