Next Council Meeting
Lexington County Administration Building is open to the Public Monday - Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Q. Who set the tax rate and who can I complain to?
A. The individual taxing agencies listed on the front of your tax bill under the column labeled “TAXING AGENCY” set the millage levies for the respective property taxes. Taxing Agency contact information is provided on the back of your tax bill. Only the Taxing Agencies, not the County Auditor, Treasurer, or Assessor can answer questions about the millage (tax) amount that they levy. The County Treasurer mails out and receives payment for the tax bills that are prepared by the County Auditor. The County Auditor prepares the tax bills based on information submitted by other entities such as the Taxing Agencies, the SC Department of Revenue, and the County Assessor’s Office (real estate market value and mailing address information only from the Assessor).
Q. I thought the millage rate had to be lower in a reassessment year. My tax bill shows that some millage rates are higher. How could this happen?
A. The front of your tax bill shows the millage rates levied in both the current and previous year by each of the Taxing Agencies serving the tax district that your property is in. You can review that information to compare the millage levied by each agency for both the current and previous year on most tax bills.
State law requires that a “roll back” millage be calculated to generate the same revenue as the previous year millage did on the same properties before reassessment, excluding new construction, during the reassessment year (see SC Code of Laws Sec. 12-43-280*). That rate can be adjusted by the consumer price index, similar to the indexing of social security and other payments and costs. If individual taxing entities determine that they require more revenue than would be available this way, they can follow special voting and public hearing requirements to set a higher millage rate, as provided for in state law (see SC Code of Laws Sections 6-1-80 and 6-1-320*). Questions about why a particular Tax Agency adopted a higher millage rate should be directed to that agency. Contact information for the various Taxing Agencies is provided on the back of the tax bill.
The SC Code of Laws can be accessed online.
Q. How do you figure these taxes?
A. For properties to which the Homestead Exemption do not apply, the property tax is determined by multiplying the fair market value by the assessment ratio by the millage rate and then subtracting the SC (Education Property Tax) Tax Relief amount.
For example, the tax on your home is determined in this way:
$50,000 Market value of legal residence x 4% Assessment ratio = 2,000 Assessment
2,000 Assessment x .250 Millage rate (250 mills) = $500 Taxes before SC Tax Relief
$500 Taxes - $278 SC Tax Relief** = $222 Taxes Due
**SC Tax Relief is applicable to legal residence property only. ($2,000 Assessment x School District 1 Capped Millage of .139)
The South Carolina Constitution provides for the following ratios to be applied to the market or use value of property to arrive at the assessed value:
Your home (legal residence) 4%
Second home (or any residential property where you do not live) 6%
Agricultural real property (privately owned) 4%
Agricultural real property (corporate owned) 6%
Commercial real property 6%
Manufacturing real and personal property 10.5%
Utility real and personal property 10.5%
Personal property (i.e., motor vehicles, boats and motors, aircraft, commercial furniture and fixtures) 10.5%
*Homestead Exemption. This discount provides for an overall reduction in market value of up to $50,000 on a legal residence owned by an eligible owner or owners. Then the legal residence assessment ratio is applied to the remaining market value, if any, to determine the property assessment.
Q. How can I find out why my property taxes have increased?
A. The new tax bill format being implemented to collect taxes for the various taxing entities in Lexington County in most cases provides “current tax year” and “previous tax year” information. Taxpayers can use this information to identify changes that may have caused the amount of taxes for a particular piece of property to change. The amount of taxes due can change if there is a change in the assessment on the property or in the millage levied by one or more of the tax entities serving the tax district in which your property is taxed.
Assessment Changes. An assessment change can result from a change in the market value of a property or from a change in the assessment ratio applied to the market value to calculate the assessment.
1.1 Market value changes. South Carolina’s Constitution requires that property be taxed fairly and equitably. To accomplish this South law requires periodic reassessment programs by county assessors. It is a fact that the market values of different properties at different locations change in value in different directions and at different rates over time. State law now requires that counties reassess property every five years.
1.2 Improvements. If you make any additions to your property or make other major improvements, your property value will increase to reflect the changes. If your home is damaged, the value may be reduced.
Values of personal property such as cars, boats and motorcycles are kept current through annual updates by the Department of Revenue.
Millage Rate Changes. Lexington County government does not control or approve the millage levies of other independent taxing entities. However, state law requires the County Auditor to prepare tax bills on behalf of the county’s taxing entities and the County Treasurer to collect those taxes (except that the performance of this function for municipalities is done at the municipalities’ request). Contact information for the individual taxing entities is provided on the back of the tax bill.
Q. Why are my car taxes higher than my house taxes?
A. One of several factors may contribute to this. The “assessment ratio” for vehicles is higher than for legal residence classification of homes. So taxes on a $20,000 vehicle are about the same as for a $60,000 legal residence, without any discounts, such as the Homestead Exemption or S.C. (Education Property Tax) Tax Relief. If the property is a legal residence to which these discounts are applied, the tax on a $20,000 vehicle could be considerably higher than on a $60,000 legal residence. State law governs property taxes in South Carolina, including how property values are determined, how property is assessed and what discounts are available (see www.sctax.org).
Q. My taxes are paid by my mortgage company. Since my taxes went up, will this change my mortgage payment?
A. The County Treasurer provides tax bill information to mortgage companies as a courtesy at the request of the mortgage companies. Mortgage companies typically include an amount in the owner’s monthly mortgage payment to build up a reserve for paying the property tax. The mortgage company may adjust this monthly amount based on the taxes due this year or on future amounts they anticipate will be needed.