New law gives property tax relief to active-duty military

zmurdock@beaufortgazette.comMarch 13, 2014 

A US Marine participates in a Purple Heart Recognition Ceremony at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, Aug. 6, 2013.

JAY KARR — Staff photo Buy Photo

South Carolina military members will get a tax break on homes they couldn't sell before being deployed, thanks to a law signed Thursday by Gov. Nikki Haley.

The law allows military homeowners to pay the owner-occupied property tax rate of 4 percent instead of the 6 percent rate charged to second homes. Service members can continue to pay the lower rate as long they remain on active duty and advertise the home for sale within 30 days of purchasing another home.

The rule is designed to reduce the burden on active-duty personnel and the risk of foreclosure. The law will affect property tax bills issued next fall.

The law will mean changes for the Beaufort County Assessor's Office, which assigns the 4 and 6 percent tax rates to properties, assessor Ed Hughes said.

The office currently lacks a way to distinguish between military and non-military owners on its forms, so over the next few months, it will have to create one, Hughes said.

Other states with similar provisions use separate primary-residence applications for military members as a way to make that distinction, which might be a solution for Beaufort County, Hughes said. Under South Carolina's new law, a copy of the service member's orders filed with the assessor is sufficient proof that the active-duty member is a permanent resident of the state.

Until the Assessor's Office can parse that information, it's unclear how many people the new rule would affect and what difference it could make in property tax revenue, Hughes said.

Of the three local installations, the change is most likely to affect service members stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, which has about 4,100 service members, according to the base's website. Three Marine Air Group 31 squadrons are currently deployed abroad, air station public affairs officer Capt. Jordan Cochran has said.

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