BEAUFORT, S.C. – Beaufort City Council passed a resolution at its meeting on April 14 in support of putting a local option sales tax (LOST) on the November ballot.
If passed by voters, LOST would add a penny to the current sales tax paid by Beaufort County residents and visitors, which is 7%. Of the revenue collected, 71% would go back to property owners as a property tax credit. The remaining 29% would be apportioned among the county and municipalities (City of Beaufort, Towns of Hilton Head Island, Bluffton, Port Royal, Yemassee and Hardeeville).
LOST would allow for a credit against a taxpayer’s ad valorem (real property, personal and motor vehicle) tax liability. A significant amount of the revenue raised through LOST would come from visitors and tourists, according to various analyses.
At the first of three readings of the ordinance on April 13, Beaufort County Council voted 6-5 to approve putting LOST on the November ballot.
According to estimates prepared by the South Carolina Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, a 1% local options sales tax would generate approximately $52 million in revenue in Beaufort County in FY 2021-22. The lion’s share, $35 million, would be allocated back to resident taxpayers in the form of property tax credits. Of the remaining $14.3 million, the City of Beaufort would receive approximately $1.5 million in revenue that would be applied toward projects included in Capital Improvement Plan.
City leaders believe that LOST would provide a much needed revenue source to address capital projects without taking on additional debt. Many of these are funded through grants but require matching funds from the City, which are limited. In addition, the City provides many services to visitors who are not taxpayers. The local sales option tax would address this imbalance.
The owner of a home with an appraised value of $100,000 would receive an approximate $222 tax credit if this tax were to pass.
If passed by voters in November, the tax would begin to be collected in May 2021.