Industries that invest at least $2.5 million in South Carolina may negotiate for a fee-in-lieu of property taxes. This can result in a savings of about 40% on property taxes otherwise due for a project. Certain large investments may be able to further reduce their liability by negotiating the assessment ratio from 10.5% down to 6%. For large investments, the assessment ratio can be reduced down to 4%. The county and the industry may agree to either set the millage rate for the entire agreement period or have the millage change every five years in step with the average millage rate for the area where the project is located. Any personal property subject to the fee in lieu of property taxes depreciates in accordance with South Carolina law, while the real property is either set at cost for the life of the agreement or can be appraised every five years.
A fee in lieu of property taxes is granted by, and at the discretion of, the county where the project is located. The industry must make the $2.5 million investment over a five-year period to qualify. Large investment projects have eight years to meet their increased investment requirements. During this period, all property that is placed in service pursuant to the agreement is subject to a fee instead of ad valorem property taxes. A county may give the industry an additional five years to complete the project and place new property in service subject to the fee. A single piece of property can be subject to the fee for up to 40 years with the county’s consent. The total project can be subject to the fee for up to 50 years with the county’s consent.
Other unique things about a fee in lieu of taxes include the ability to replace used property with new property and have it subject to the fee and the option for the county to grant a credit against the fee.