By Barney Blakeney
The deadline to register for the Charleston County Advance Tax Installment Program is January 15. Through the newly implemented program taxpayers who own real estate property in Charleston County may be eligible to pay real property taxes through advance installments, at no additional cost to the taxpayer. In order to participate, the real property must not be delinquent or have a mortgage escrow.
For many property owners, the decade-old statewide advance tax installment program made available to Charleston County property owners only last year will be a blessing. It allows them to make installment tax payments rather than a lump sum due each January 15. The African American Settlement Community Historic Commission (AASC) January 7 sponsored a presentation by Charleston County Treasurer Mary Tinkler on how it works.
The Advance Installment Payment Plan consists of six equal payments based on the previous year’s real property tax bill. For example, if your 2018 real property taxes were $1,200, then your plan would consist of six equal payments (in cash or check only) of $200 each to pay toward your 2019 real property taxes. On October 1, 2019, Charleston County will calculate your 2019 real property tax bill; therefore, your sixth and final payment will be based on the remaining amount due to pay your real property taxes in full. Charleston County will send a notice (no later than November 15th) informing you of the amount due for your sixth and final installment payment. The final payment is due by January 15th.
AASC Board President John Wright said the organization has been working to make the program available in Charleston County the past four years. As gentrification leads to higher and higher property values and taxes, many landowners find it increasingly more difficult to make tax payments, he said. Families that may have an income of only about $20,000 annually now own property with taxes assessed at several thousand dollars. Forced to pay the higher taxes in one lump sum has caused many landowners to lose their property, he said. The advanced tax installment program can help them, he said.
Elected county treasurer in 2016, Tinkler said she realizes her job is not to conduct tax sales and property redemptions, but to advocate for taxpayers. A former member of the S.C. House of Representatives, after election as treasurer she made the advance tax installment program a priority. The program is regulated by state statute so she had to go through Charleston County’s Legislative Delegation to get the program approved for Charleston County. The program’s been implemented in Beaufort, Dorchester and Richland counties for the past several years, she said. Registration for the program began December 1.
In its first year in Charleston County taxpayers may find it difficult to participate since all back taxes must be paid in full. But the opportunity to register for the program will come again next December, she said.
Wallace Washington, a Mount Pleasant landowner said the program will lighten the burden for a lot of property owners. And while it needs tweaking that includes extending the registration deadline and potentially allowing property owners paying back taxes the opportunity to participate as well, it’s definitely a plus.