Boats, Motors and Watercraft Property Tax

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The South Carolina Legislature passed ACT 223 on May 18, 2018, which changes the way in which boats, motors, and watercraft are taxed beginning January 1, 2020. The reason for the change was to protect boat purchasers who were unaware that when purchasing the boat they also acquired any/all delinquent tax associated with the watercraft. 

Under ACT 223, the certificate of title for a watercraft requires the seller to certify that all personal property taxes have been paid to date but also that “all current year personal property taxes are the responsibility of the seller unless an otherwise enforceable agreement has been reached between the buyer and seller." 

Beginning January 1, 2020 boats, motors, and watercraft will be taxed in the manner as vehicles.

If you purchase a boat from an individual, you will need to visit your County Auditor’s Office to get a bill created and pay it in the Treasurer's office prior to going to SCDNR to get your stickers.

If you purchase a boat from an SC Boat Dealer, the dealer will notify SCDNR who will then send the information to your County Auditor who will prepare a bill that is due 120 days from purchase. This is the same treatment as vehicles now. 

Additionally, there is a provision in the bill that will not allow any boat to be taxed twice in a 12 month period.


Application Criteria for 6% Tax Assessment

All boats are taxed at 10.5%. However, under Section 12-37-224, residents may be eligible for a 6% tax assessment if they meet all of the below criteria.

  1. It is used as a second home
  2. It has sleeping, bathroom and cooking facilities installed by the manufacturer
  3. The interest portion of the indebtedness is deductible, or would be deductible if financed, pursuant to the Internal Revenue Code as an interest expense on a qualified primary or second residence

How To Apply

To receive the 6% tax rate residents must complete and submit the Watercraft/Camper Assessment Form and return it to Kimmi Judy in the Auditor’s Office.

Note: All marine equipment, registered as of January 1st of each year, which include boats and motors valued at $500 or less is exempt from property taxes.

All marine equipment tax information is provided to the Auditor’s Office by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and the United State Coast Guard. The Auditor’s Office is required to tax from this information. You must notify SCDNR within 15 days of the sale, disposal and/or address change.


Purchasing a Watercraft

Prior to purchasing a watercraft and/or camper residents should:

Use the title number and check with the county in which the owner lives to ensure there are no unpaid taxes. Under state law, all unpaid taxes will become the responsibility of the new owner.

Create New Tax Bill 


Previous Law and Procedure

The previous law is provided below.  If you had a boat transaction prior to December 31, 2018, this law will still apply as far as delinquent boat taxes are concerned.  If you have questions regarding delinquent tax on a boat, motor, or watercraft please contact Kimmi Judy with the Auditor's Office.  

Section 50-23-295: (A) A certificate of title to watercraft or an outboard motor may not be transferred if the department has noticed that property taxes for property tax years beginning after 1999, are owned on the watercraft or outboard motor. (B) A person who knowingly sells a watercraft for which he owes unpaid and outstanding property taxes, or on which he knows there is a property tax lien, is guilty of a misdemeanor and up conviction, must be fined not more than one thousand dollars and imprisoned not more than thirty days.


Payment Options

Payments can be made online at DorchesterCountyTaxesOnline.com, in-person at both the St. George and Summerville Treasurer’s Offices, or by mail, using the return envelope, provided with the tax bill. 

There will be a $1.50 fee for e-check payments.

All credit and debit card payments (made online or in-person) are subject to a processing fee of 2.5% plus .30. This fee will be added to the total bill. 


Questions 

Frequently Asked Questions 

All questions and/or concerns in reference to boats, motors or watercraft tax should be directed to Kimmi Judy with Auditor's Office at (843) 832-0272.

For questions related to tax payments please contact the Treasurer's Office at (843) 563-0165, option 5.

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