Challenging Your Property Tax Assessment

Property taxes are the oldest taxes levied in the United States and the only major tax imposed by all 50 states. Property taxes are the primary source of revenue for local government entities in South Carolina. In South Carolina per capita property tax collections are almost twice as high as income taxes.

The amount of property taxes you pay is determined by the classification of your property, the tax rate set by your local government entity, and the value of your property. The classification schedules are set by law, and range from 4% for owner-occupied residential real estate to 10.5% for manufacturing property. The tax rates are set annually by your local government entities (e.g. county, municipality, school district, etc.). The value of your property is set by either a statutory depreciation schedule or by appraisal. County assessors are responsible for appraising real property.

The value of real property for property tax purposes is set every 5 years. Absent the construction of improvements, casualty, or a change in ownership, the value of property is determined once every five years, not annually. Counties perform what is known as a "reassessment" every 5 years. All property in the county is reappraised and a new tax rate is calculated.

County assessors usually don't look at your property to determine its value. County assessors must value thousands and thousands of parcels of real estate, but they do not have the resources to conduct individual appraisals. Therefore county assessors use "mass appraisal" methods to determine the fair market value of real property. Mass appraisal methods usually look at a small number of factors to estimate a value, such as square footage, year of construction, etc.

You will receive a reassessment notice from the county when the county increases the value of your property for property tax purposes. The value of your property can not be increased by more than 15% under a reassessment program.

You must file a timely written request to meet with the assessor to challenge your property valuation. You have 90 days after a county assessor mails you a notice that the value of your property is increasing to challenge the value. If you do not challenge the value within 90 days you cannot challenge it for that tax year. You can challenge the value in a later tax year, but the value will not apply retroactively and the value is determined as of the year the notice was mailed.

You will have a conference with your county assessor if the assessor does not agree with your proposed value of the property. When a taxpayer challenges a property tax value the assessor will review the written request, and may agree with the proposed value. If the assessor does not agree, a conference will be scheduled. If the assessor does not agree, you must file a written protest with the assessor within 30 days of the date of the conference. The assessor will then respond in writing to the protest.

You have the right to go before the board of assessment appeals if you and the county assessor cannot agree on a value. You have 30 days after the assessor responds to your protest to file an appeal with county board of assessment appeals. You and the assessor will then exchange the information you will rely on and the county board of assessment appeals hold a hearing. If you have not already obtained an appraisal of your property, you will almost certainly need one before the hearing to be successful. The county board of assessment appeals will issue a written decision.

You have the right to a contested case hearing before the South Carolina Administrative Law Court if you disagree with a decision. You have 30 days from the date the county board of assessment appeals issues a written decision to file an appeal with the South Carolina Administrative Law Court. The assessor can also file an appeal if he disagrees with the county board of assessment appeals decision. A trial-type hearing will be held in front of an administrative law court judge and the judge will determine the value of the property.

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