HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - According to South Carolina state law, once a person moves to the state, there is a 45-day grace period to transfer license plates and tags to South Carolina and pay property taxes.
Toby Clardy is a field investigator with the Horry County Auditor's Office. When school starts back up, you'll find Clardy at school drop-off and pick-up lines checking on drivers' license plates. He's looking for any out-of-state plates. He'll jot the tag down and then check to see if it is properly registered and paid for. Clardy says he typically will mark down 25 to 30 tags in a day at each school.
On Wednesday morning, Clardy was at Ocean Drive Elementary School in North Myrtle Beach. He jotted down 12 out-of-state plates during the morning rush that he will check on later.
Clardy says it can be tricky to make sure everyone is complying with the law because the Grand Strand is so transient. That's why field investigators check schools so often.
"It's not fair for the other students that are locals, for them to have to pay for the out-of-state students," explains Clardy. "And that's one of the main reasons why we like to go out. We try to enforce it to the fullest, so that it will be fair for everybody."
Clardy says the auditor's office collected $181,000 in 2014 and about 50 percent of that tax goes right back to Horry County Schools.
Once you register your child for school, you have 45 days to change your plates. If you don't have kids, you have 45 days from when you move to the state to change your tags. If you have a second home, by law you have to switch your plates in 150 days.
If you do not follow through, you will get a letter after 150 days of not complying that will notify you that you still haven't paid. Then, if you still do not contact the office or pay, you will get a warrant notice in the mail to go to court. If for some reason you still refuse to pay, you could go to jail. And if you do pay past the legal timeframe, the office could require you to pay all the back taxes.
Clardy says it's not just field investigators with a watchful eye on the roads. Neighbors will call the office to notify field investigators that someone living nearby still has out-of-state plates.
"They'll let us know if somebody's got out-of-state tags," warns Clardy. "Because it's not fair, they're taking their tax money! And if everybody will pay, the taxes won't go up. So it works out really good."
There is one exception. There is the option to pay your property taxes but keep your out-of-state plates. If you have any questions, call the auditor's office at (843) 915-5052.