Welcome to Chester County Assessor & Treasurer Online Information
Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of Frequently Asked Questions about property taxation in Chester County. Here you will find valuable information about why and how your property is taxed, selling your property and definitions of common tax terms. We hope this information proves to be a valuable resource for our taxpayers.

To view answers, simply click on a question below. If you have a question that is not answered below, please contact our office.

Definitons of Common Property Tax Terms
How is property defined as a legal residence?
Why do we pay property tax?
How is the value of my property determined?
What are the responsibilities of the Assessor's Office?
How is the property taxed?
Where do property tax dollars go?
How do I get the best tax rate for my home?
If an individual owns more than one home (a primary residence and a beach house), may the individual elect which home receives the four percent assessment ratio?
If Taxpayer A sells his owner-occupied domicile during the tax year to Taxpayer B, Taxpayer A having previously qualified his home for the four percent assessment ratio with the county assessor, will the property be taxed as a four percent assessment ratio or a six percent assessment ratio?
If an individual owns and occupied a home (Home A) as a legal residence and sells that residence during the tax year but buys a new residence (Home B) and occupies it as his or her domicile during the same tax year, may the taxpayer elect which residence (A or B) to qualify as a legal residence?
How is my property reassessed?
How often does reassessment occur?
How will I know if my property value changes?
What if I disagree with my property value?
Will my taxes increase because of reassessment?
What is roll-back tax?
What is the time table for collecting property taxes in Chester County?
What is the personal property tax?
Is there anyway to reduce my tax bill?
How do I qualify for the Homestead Exemption?
How often does reassessment occur?
When are the taxes due on my motor vehicle?
Why am I being charged taxes for the vehicle I just purchased? Didn't I pay the taxes when I bought my vehicle? The dealer told me he would take care of tags and taxes.
How do I apply for high mileage discount on my vehicle?
Why am I getting a tax bill for a vehicle or boat that I no longer own?
How do I apply for Senior Citizen Discount on vehicle renewal fees?
What are the responsibilities of the Treasurer's Office?
Where does the Treasurer invest funds, and what are the constraints on investment of County monies?
Why did the Treasurer send my bill to the wrong address?
Why did the Treasurer raise my taxes?

Real Property - All land and the buildings, structures or improvements on that land.

Personal Property - All things other than real estate that have value such as cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles and airplanes, and items used in a business such as furniture, fixtures and equipment.

Fair Market Value - The amount for which property can reasonably be expected to sell on the open market with a willing buyer and a willing seller.

Assessment Ratio - The percentage of your property's value, which is subject to taxation. For example, the assessment ratio of residential property is 4%. Multiply your home's fair market value by the assessment ratio of 4% to determine assessed value.

Assessed Value - An appraisal or fair market value of real or personal property multiplied by the appropriate corresponding ratio equals the assessment or assessed value. Assessed value times the mileage rate equals the amount of property tax due.

Reassessment - Process required by state law to determine the change in market value or property over a certain period of time in order to provide equity among taxpayers. Reassessment is a revaluation of real estate.

Mileage Rate - The amount of mills levied in order to meet the budget of a school district, county, city or other political subdivision. One mill equals 1/1000 of a dollar or 1/10 of a cent. If the tax rate is 256 mills, multiply .256 by the assessed value to determine the amount of property tax due.

Tax Year - The year that the tax bill is received payable by January 15 of the next year.

Ad Valorem Taxation - Taxes based on a fixed percentage of a property's value, usually determined by an assessor.

Mass Appraisal - The systematic appraisal of groups of properties as of a given date using standardized procedures and statistical testing.


 

 A property is a person's legal residence if the property is owned and occupied by that individual as the individual's domicile. "Domicile" has its usual meaning and is considered to be that residence where a person has a true, fixed and permanent home and principal establishment and to which whenever the person is absent has the intention of returning. An individual can have only one domicile at a time. A property does not qualify, as a legal residence unless the owner-occupant applies to the county assessor where the property is located, and the county assessor determines the residence is in fact the domicile of the owner-occupant. To qualify for the four percent assessment ratio, the owner occupant must:

(1) own and occupy the residence on the property as the person's "legal residence;"
(2) be domiciled on the property during the applicable tax year and at the end of the applicable tax year; and
(3) certify to the county assessor under penalty of perjury, that: (a) the property is the applicant's legal residence and where the applicant is domiciled; and (b) neither the owner nor any member of the owner's household (spouse or child claimed or eligible to be claimed as a dependent on the owner-occupant's income tax return) owns any other residence in South Carolina which qualifies for the owner-occupied four percent assessment ratio.

The burden of proof is on the owner-occupant to establish with the county assessor that the property is a legal residence. In addition to the certification required in the application process, the applicant must provide whatever other proof the assessor requires and considers necessary. The amount of property eligible for the four percent assessment ratio is limited to land with five acres or less considered as a lot with the legal residence. Also, the legal residence and one acre of land over five acres, with anything over the one acre being taxed at a six percent assessment ratio. The following kinds of property ownership may qualify for legal residence status:

  • A residence on fee simple property owned and occupied by the applicant as a domicile may qualify as a legal residence.
  • A residence owned and occupied "Part in Fee" by the applicant as a domicile may qualify as a legal residence up the percentage of the residence owned by the domiciliary taxpayer. The remainder of the property would be taxed at a six percent assessment ratio.
  • A "Life Estate" owned and occupied as a domicile may qualify as a legal residence. A life estate is an estate in real property in which the tenant has a freehold interest for his or her life.
  • Residential property held in trust, if the income beneficiary of the trust occupies the property as his or her domicile may qualify as a legal residence. The trustee of the trust must apply to the assessor and provide the necessary certification.
  • A legal residence located on leased land may qualify as a legal residence. A residence, such as a mobile home, owned and occupied as the owner's legal residence, but located on leased or rented property, even though at the end of the lease period the lessor becomes the owner of the residence, may qualify as a legal residence. The residence, once qualified, would be taxed to the owner at the four percent assessment ratio. The land on which the home is located would be taxed to the landlord as rental property and at a six percent assessment ratio.
  • Leased property upon which an owner-occupant maintains a domicile and the lessee is "liable for the taxes" may qualify as a legal residence.
  • Property purchased under a contract for sale on which the owner occupant maintains a domicile may qualify as a legal residence. The purchaser is regarded as the equitable owner of the property, subject to a liability for the unpaid price, and the seller as holding the legal title from the time a valid agreement for the purchase of the property is entered into.

Property tax is collected by local government to provide for the many services most of us take for granted. Schools, police and fire protection and public libraries are possible because of revenue from the property tax. We are all asked to pay our fair share of the cost of these services by paying tax in proportion to the value our property.

The county assessor maintains information on each property located in the county, including size, square footage, location and certain amenities. The assessor also has copies of building permits, which provide additional information on the property. To find the value of any piece of property, the assessor must know the price for which properties similar to it are selling, what it would cost today to replace, how much it takes to operate and repair, what rent the property may earn, and other facts affecting its value, such as the current rate of interest charged for borrowing the money to buy or build properties.

The Assessor's Office locates, lists and appraises the value of approximately 25,000 real property parcels in Chester County. It is the Assessor's responsibility to assure that all properties are appraised fairly and equitably.

The County Assessor maintains information on each property located in the county, including size, square footage, location and certain amenities. The assessor also has copies of building permits, which provide additional information on the property. To find the value of any piece of property, the assessor must first know for what price properties similar to it are selling, what it would cost today to replace, how much it takes to operate and repair, what rent the property may earn, and other facts affecting its value.

Along with this information, the assessor will determine the property's value considering three different approaches:

  • SALES COMPARISON APPROACH: This method compares property to other properties recently sold. These prices are analyzed to determine if the sales are accurate. One property may have sold for more than it was really worth because the buyer was in a hurry and willing to pay any price. Another may have sold for less money than was worth because the owner needed cash quickly. When using the sales comparison approach, the assessor always considers such overpricing or under pricing and analyze many sales to arrive at a fair valuation of your property. Size quality, condition and location along with time of sales are important facts to consider. The sales comparison approach is the most reliable way to determine the value of residential property.
  • COST APPROACH: A second way to value property is based on how much money it would take at current material and labor costs to replace property with one similar. If the property is not new, the assessor must also determine how much it has depreciated. Also, the land would have to be valued as if it were vacant.
  • INCOME APPROACH: Another way to value property is to evaluate how much income the property would produce if it were rented as an apartment house, a store or other sort of business. The assessor considers operating expenses, taxes, insurance, maintenance cost and the return a typical investor would expect on this property.
    The assessor's primary responsibility is to find the fair market value of your property so that you may only pay your fair share of taxes. The amount of taxes you pay is determined by a tax rate, which is applied, to your property assessed value. The tax rate is determined by all taxing agencies, city or county, school and fire districts or others and depends on what is needed to provide all the services provided.

The assessor's office also keeps track of ownership changes, maintains maps of parcel boundaries and keeps descriptions, drawings of buildings and property characteristics up-to-date. If your opinion of the value of your property differs from the assessor, by all means go to the Assessor's Office and discuss this matter. The staff will be glad to answer your questions about your appraisal. If you feel that the items that affect your property value are incorrect, such as 1 bath not 2, if you have a carport not a garage or the square footage of your home is incorrect; please feel free to question these differences. If you feel that the estimated value of your home is too high and you have evidence that similar properties have sold for less than your amount, or it is inequitable because it is higher than the estimated value of similar properties, then you have the right to request a review of your property. To make this request go the assessor's office and appeal the value. You will need to present evidence to back up your claim of an incorrect value. Someone from the office will check and make any necessary adjustments. Simply because you feel your taxes are too high will not win you an appeal. This is an issue you must take up with the officials who determine the budgets (city or county councils and school board). The review requests must be made between January 1 and March 1 each tax year and it will only affect that tax year.

THIS OFFICE DOES:

  • Appraise real estate and mobile homes for ad valorem tax
  • Produce an annual certified assessment roll for ad valorem taxation for all properties within the Assessor's jurisdiction
  • Maintain records of deed sale transactions, building permits, tax maps and other records necessary for a continuous reassessment program
  • Review and qualify real properties for legal residence and agricultural special assessments
  • Represent the County in property tax appeals to the Board of Assessment Appeals and the Administrative Law Judge Division
  • Enforce County ordinances regarding the transport of mobile homes
  • Maintain the inventory of mobile homes in the County 

THIS OFFICE DOES NOT:

  • Assess manufacturing or utility property
  • Assess personal property such as cars or boats

The property tax is determined by multiplying the fair market value by the assessment ratio by the mileage rate.

For example, the tax on your home is determined in this way:

  • $50,000 Fair market value of home x 4% Assessment ratio = $2,000 Assessed value
  • $2,000 Assessed value x .250 Mileage Rate (250 mills) = $ 500 Taxes due

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%

  • To support administration of County government and public school system
  • To build and repair public buildings for County and schools
  • To pay expenses of court, county jail and law enforcement
  • To provide for fire protection
  • To pay salaries for County and school district employees.

If you own a home, you want to be sure to obtain the 4% assessment rate if you live in the home as your legal residence. Otherwise, your tax rate will be 6%. To obtain the lower rate, you will need to complete an application with the county assessor. This should be done as soon as you move into your house, but may be filed anytime before January 15, when taxes are due. One you file this application, you will not need to complete another one, unless ownership changes or use of the property changes.

No. Only the owner-occupied domicile will qualify for the four percent assessment ratio.

If Taxpayer B qualifies the property with the county assessor as Taxpayer B's owner-occupied domicile, the property will be taxed at a four percent assessment ratio for the entire tax year. If Taxpayer B fails to qualify or is unable to qualify the property as his or her legal residence, i.e., he is renting it to another, the property will be taxed at a six percent assessment ratio for the entire tax year.

No. Only the residence the owner owns and occupies as a domicile as of December 31 of the tax year in question (Home B) will qualify as a legal residence. Once (Home A) is sold or is no longer occupied as an owner-occupied domicile, it loses its eligibility for the four percent assessment ratio.

A data collector or appraiser from the assessor's office visits your property and measures the structures to determine square footage. The data collector also notes other information, such as age, type of construction, type of heating and air conditioning, number of floors, and whether the structure has a garage, deck, swimming pool or other amenities. An appraiser then considers this information along with selling prices of similar properties in the area, how much it would cost to replace the property at current costs, and the general physical condition of the property. For rental or commercial property, an evaluation is made on how much income the property produces, what the operating expenses are and what kind of investment return can be reasonably expected. The appraiser also will visit the property to verify the information. With all this information, the appraiser then sets the value of your property.

State law requires that counties reassess property every five years. Counties are on a staggered annual schedule.

Counties must mail a property tax assessment notice to all property owners whose property's fair market value increases by $1000 or more. Assessment notices must be sent to the person listed as property owner as of December 31 of the prior year. The assessment notice is NOT a tax bill. The notice is simply to notify taxpayers of a change in their property's value. Tax bills are mailed usually in October and must be paid by January 15. The assessment notice includes your market value, the new assessment ratio, number of acres or lots, location of property, tax map number and the appeals procedure. When the reassessment program is completed, counties must mail the assessment notices by February 1 of the year the reassessment program will be implemented. If most of the reassessment notices are not mailed by February 1 in a year of reassessment, the prior year's property tax assessment must be used to calculate taxes for the current year.

If after receiving your assessment notice, you disagree with the new value assigned your property, you have the right to appeal. An appeal must be filed in writing within 30 days of receiving the assessment notice. You must file your appeal with the county assessor. Don't wait until your tax bill arrives to appeal your new value, it's too late then.

Some property owners will notice a decrease in their tax, some will stay the same and some will pay more tax. Reassessment is not intended to raise taxes; it is intended to distribute the tax burden fairly among all property owners. Because of reassessment, typically you will see that real property values have increased. Unless a property is badly in need of repair, rarely do property values decrease. Because of the increase in property values throughout the county, the millage rate can then be lowered without decreasing the total amount of taxes collected in the county. If it has been a long time since your home has been reassessed, you will likely see an increase in your taxes. That's because your home has been taxed at less than its fair market value.

Rollback taxes are due when real property is in agricultural use and is being valued, assessed and taxed as agricultural real property and is applied to a use other than agricultural, it shall be subject to additional taxes referred to as rollback taxes. These taxes are the responsibility of the person who changes the use, usually the buyer, because in most instances the buyer will constitute the change.

Tax notices are mailed by September 30th. Taxes are due on January 1st. Penalities begin incurring on January 16th. In March, unpaid taxes are turned over to the Delinquent Tax Collector.

Personal property tax is collected annually on motor vehicles, recreational vehicles, watercraft (includes boats, wave runners, jet skis, etc.) and airplanes. Personal property tax also applies to equipment, furniture, fixtures and machinery primarily used by businesses. Household goods in your residence are exempt from personal property tax.

Yes. You may qualify for an exemption on your home, based on legal residency,  if you are living in the home and the home is in your name. For more information, refer to the question regarding qualifying for Homestead Exemption.

You may qualify for the Homestead Exemption if you ARE at least 65 years of age on or before December 31, preceding the tax year in which you wish to claim the exemption; OR ARE certified totally and permanently disabled by a state or federal agency; OR ARE legally blind; OR ARE a legal resident of South Carolina for at least one year on or before December 31 of the year prior to the exemption; AND HOLD fee simple title or partial title to your house, mobile home, or life estate on or before December 31 of the year prior to the exemption, and have been approved to receive the 4% legal residence tax assessment ratio, AND WERE a legal residence of South Carolina for one year. 

State law requires that counties reassess property every five years. Counties are on a staggered annual schedule.

Taxes on motor vehicles and recreational vehicles must be paid before your license plate tags can be renewed. These taxes are due by the last day of the month in which your tag expires.

In South Carolina, vehicle taxes are paid a year in advance.  If you are renewing your vehicle license tag, you can pay your taxes and renewal fee to the Treasurer's Office and eliminate having to go to the Highway Department.

There are two taxes when purchasing a vehicle: property tax with the County Treasurer's Office and sales tax with the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles. When you purchase a vehicle from a dealership, they are allowed to pick up your registration and license tags without paying the local property taxes. When the dealer states that they are taking care of your taxes, they are referring to South Carolina sales tax, which is paid at the local Department of Motor Vehicles. This allows you a 120 day grace period to delay payment of personal property taxes on your new vehicle

To apply for a high mileage appeal, you must visit the Auditor's Office (803-385-2607) and bring a signed statement with your vehicle mileage prior to the due date.

If you receive a tax notice for a vehicle you no longer own, you will need to contact the Auditor's Office. If you receive a tax notice for a boat or motor that you no longer own, you must notify the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources at Post Office Box 167, Columbia, SC 29202. You will also need to contact the Auditor's Office at  803-385-2607 for further information. There are forms to be completed in the Auditor's Office.

If you are paying by mail, send a statement with your Social Security number requesting a senior citizen discount. We will complete and mail your application to the Department of Motor Vehicles.If you qualify, DMV will issue you a refund check. If you pay in person, notify the person posting your payment that your would like to apply for the Senior Citizen discount. Discount is for discounted registration fees only, not taxes. It is recommendedthat customers apply diretly to the DMV for the decuction, that way your Social Security number remains more secure.

The responsibilities of the Treasurer include:

  • Collect real, personal, motor vehicle and other taxes and disburse the allocation of those funds to County government, municipalities, schools and special taxing districts in Chester County
  • Maintain records of revenues collected and invest any funds not immediately needed for disbursement
  • Deposit money received from other County departments
  • Generate refund checks to taxpayers for overpayments due to change in address status, assessment or other adjustments as determined by the Auditor or Assessor
  • Act as a paying agent for bond and other debt issues for the County and special districts
  • Collect the annual renewal license fee on motor vehicles on behalf of the State of South Carolina
  • Provide tax information to the public and legal professionals
  • Offer on-line capabilities with the SC Department of Public Safety's Division of Motor Vehicles, for collection of biannual registration fees


This department DOES NOT: 

  • Set property tax rates or mileage
  • Assess the value of property - Tax Assessor
  • Determine the amount of tax owed - Auditor (803-385-2607)
  • Create or change the assessment ratio on real property - Tax Assessor (803-377-4177)
  • Make address or name corrections  - Auditor or Tax Assessor
  • Collect delinquent property taxes - Tax Collector (803-385-2623)
  • Resolve disputes over property appraisals or assessments
  • Grant high mileage tax discounts on personal property vehicle taxes - Auditor
  • Grant homestead or other property tax exemptions - Auditor 

Sections 12-45-220 and 6-5-10 of the SC Code of Laws limit the Treasurer as to where public funds may be invested. These code sections allow investment: a) in obligations of the United States and its agencies within the United States that are fully guaranteed by the federal government; b) in bonds or certificates of indebtedness of the State of South Carolina and its agencies; c) in shares of any building and loan association insured by an agency of the United States; and do with banking institutions of South Carolina.

The Treasurer does not determine property tax amounts. The amount of tax money needed is decided by each of the area's taxing authorities. The Assessor's Office determines appraisal values for real property while the Auditor calculates the tax. The County Council, School Board and each one of the councils of the municipalities determine how much revenue is needed to meet their individual budgets. If taxes are increased, these entities are solely responsible for tax increase

The Treasurer does not determine property tax amounts. The amount of tax money needed is decided by each of the area's taxing authorities. The Assessor's Office (803-377-4177) determines appraisal values for real property while the Auditor (803-385-2607) calculates the tax. The County Council, School Board and each one of the councils of the municipalities determine how much revenue is needed to meet their individual budgets. If taxes are increased, these entities are solely responsible for tax increase.

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