Horry auditor warns rental owners: pay your personal property taxes

The Horry County Auditor’s Office is wanting rental property owners, and even those who rent their legal residences out, to come forward and properly claim the furniture for proper tax collection.

Current state law says if a property owner has an “intent” to rent his or her property, the owner is required to file a peronal property return on furniture, appliances and equipment.

“Typically, our office mails pre-populated forms each year to those we know should be filing under the statutes, but just because we don’t mail a form to a taxpayer does not mean the owner is exempt from filing,” said Auditor Lois Eargle at a press conference Friday. “That statute says that you must file, not that we must send the form.”

This comes in the midst of a Senate Bill sponsored by Sen. Ray Cleary, R-Murrells Inlet, aiming to allow S.C. homeowners to rent their houses to vacationers more days a year and still pay the lower, owner-occupied property tax rate. The bill that advanced in the Senate would allow homeowners to rent their properties for as many as 72 days a year, up from the current 14 days allowed, and keep the lower 4 percent tax rate. The proposal still must make it through the House, which won’t take up the issue until January.

“While the biggest impact of its passage would fall within the realm of the real estate taxes and the assessor’s office, there would be some impact relative to personal property taxes and my office,” Eargle said.

South Carolina code, particularly Section 12-37-710, states property owners have an obligation to list property for taxation annually. South Carolina is one of six states that tax personal property specifically, while other states combine the tax with regular property taxes, said Tiffany Mitchell, appraisor I in the Auditor’s Office.

Mitchell has helped spearhead the effort, which now is up to 76,000 accounts that list personal property on the tax rolls. Mitchell and six other staff members handle the discovery part of the process, which means her office scours the Internet for advertised rental properties or permanent homes for rent temporarily. She said the county discovered it should have been collecting on properties in the Ocean Lakes Family Campgrounds for years.

“That’s a lot of money the county was missing out on,” Mitchell said. “In doing this research, it opened our eyes to how much we can find online.”

Mitchell said the auditor’s office is legally allowed to seek payment from the current tax year and five years prior, which is what it intends to do.

“I will go after the back five if we do find out that’s been going on and there’s evidence to support,” she said.

Blank personal property return forms, or PR-26 forms, are available on the auditor’s page at www.horrycounty.org.

“That’s all we want is compliance,” Mitchell said. “All we’re asking is that you pay your fair share just like everyone else is doing.”