Information to know regarding Motor Vehicle Taxes

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For new residents of South Carolina, personal property taxes on motor vehicles and recreational vehicles must be paid before your decal, registration, and license plates can be issued. You have 45 days after moving to South Carolina to register your vehicle. Once registered, taxes are due throughout the year on a staggered monthly schedule. For example, if the tags you received expire in November, your renewal bill will be due on the last day of November every year. Unlike real property or house bills, vehicle bills are typically paid 12 months in advance.

Even if you live in this state only part of the year and consider another state your home residence, you are still required to register your car in SC if the vehicle will be here for 150 days or more. For more information, contact the nearest office of the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

For a rough estimate on your motor vehicle taxes, please visit our "Tax Calculator" page.

The South Carolina Department of Revenue (DOR) determines the value of motor vehicles within the state by using a set of nationally accepted standards and guidelines established by the auto industry. NOTE: It is very important to review all the information on the tax bill. A correction on the tax bill may result in a change in the taxes due.

All county auditors are required by law to use the DOR Motor Vehicle Values manual to establish the fair market value in preparing your motor vehicle tax bill. The manual lists each model and make of most available motor vehicles. This manual is not available to the taxpayer.

The vehicle's fair market value is multiplied by the assessment ratio* set by law to determine the assessed value, which is rounded to the nearest tenth. The assessed value is then multiplied by the millage rate to determine the amount of taxes owed.

When values are not provided by DOR, then other nationally recognized sources are used. When information identifying the specific vehicle is missing from the DMV record, a review of the tax bill can identify a need to update information. By contacting the Auditor's office to update the information, it will ensure the tax bill moving forward will be accurate. Vehicle information can be updated when the renewal tax bill is issued by providing the Auditor's office with a copy of the current title or specific documentation that identifies the vehicle.

 

For vehicles purchased from in-state dealerships, sales tax or the Infrastructure Maintenance Fee (IMF) is collected at the time of purchase. The dealer can also arrange for the DMV to mail you a new decal and registration. However, to cover personal property taxes, you will receive a "120 Days" notice in the mail. Please see the article "Why did I receive a 120 Days Motor Vehicle tax bill?" for more information.

 

If the value of your motor vehicle seems too high, you may contact the Auditor’s office to determine if the appraised value of your vehicle on your tax bill is correct. If the value is correct, you may further dispute the appraisal of your vehicle tax bill by submitting a "Vehicle Assessment Appeal Form" to the Auditor for review. Please see the article "Appealing the value of a Motor Vehicle renewal bill" for more information.

Alternatively, your vehicle may be eligible for a tax deduction based on high mileage. Please review our "High Mileage Chart" article to see if your vehicle qualifies and for information on applying.

 

There are no senior citizen discounts for motor vehicle taxes. However, DMV does offer license renewal fee discounts for persons 64 years of age or older. Please contact DMV at either 803-896-5000 (Columbia), 843-379-8822 (Beaufort) or 843-815-6981 (Bluffton) for more information.

 

For active duty military members that are stationed in South Carolina and claim their home of record in a different state, there are exemption benefits available for motor vehicles. Please see one of the following articles for more information:
Active duty military exemption benefits for first-time Motor Vehicle registration
Active duty military exemption benefits on Motor Vehicle renewals
Active duty military exemptions on 120 Days Motor Vehicle accounts

 

For retired military, you may qualify for exemptions on up to two vehicles and your home provided through the South Carolina Department of Revenue (DOR) if you are a 100% totally and permanently disabled veteran. All military exemptions from property taxes are listed in Section B of the Department of Revenue’s Form 401I (Application for Exemptions Instructions). These instructions are from SC Code of Laws §12-37-220, General Exemptions from Taxes.

If you are already approved through DOR but received a motor vehicle renewal bill, please see the article "Disabled veteran exemption benefits on Motor Vehicle renewals" for more information.

To apply for a disabled veteran license plate, please contact the South Carolina DMV with a copy of your DOR exemption approval letter.

 

*An amendment to the South Carolina Constitution, Article X, Section 1(8)(B)(1) reduced the assessment ratio on personal motor vehicles including motorcycles from 10.5% to 6% over six years beginning with the 2002 tax year. This reduced assessment ratio applies only to personal automobiles, personal light trucks, and personal motorcycles. The laws were changed in 2006 to amend the gross vehicle weight for private passenger vehicles to 11,000 lbs. or less and the net vehicle weight to 9,000 lbs. or less. All medium and heavy trucks classified by the manufacturer, to include pickup trucks with an empty weight exceeding 9,000 lbs. and/or a gross vehicle weight exceeding 11,000 lbs., are valued at 10.5%. All motor vehicles registered under a business name, and all other motor vehicles such as camper trailers and motor homes, are assessed at 10.5%.

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