HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Unpaid property taxes in Horry County have accumulated to $70.5 million over the last ten years, according to county treasurer.
“I think this number is alarming and we’ve got to get people on it and get to working on it and get it cleaned up,” Horry County Treasurer Angie Jones said.
Money collected from property taxes goes into the county’s general fund. The county collected $97.2 million from property taxes in the 2018 fiscal year, according to the county’s budget.
The general fund finances various departments within the county including police, public works and EMS.
Jones said the amount of unpaid property taxes has decreased by $18 million since this time last year. However, Jones estimated only 10-20% of the $18 million was money the county collected. She explained unpaid taxes are noled after 10 years and some of the diligent taxes may be caused by improper paperwork.
“When you buy a house, you’re going to be taxed at 6% unless you apply for your 4% primary residence. So if you wait, you’re going to get a furniture fixture bill because the 6% property bill they’re going to assume that you rent it,” Jones said.
However, if a homeowner proves they are a resident, that bill is taken away and that unpaid debt is not owed.
“There’s a lot on here that are not valid, but either way, we have to work it and find out,” Jones said.
Jones estimated 10% of the $70.5 million owed will be money back in the bank.
Unpaid real estate taxes accounts for $18.7 million. However, Jones said she is not worried by this amount.
“We don’t get too concerned about that because we sell real estate, so in December of (20)19 that will pretty much go away,” she explained.
Jones said after the real estate sale in 2018, the county’s unpaid total dropped down to $46 million before 2018 taxes rolled over.
Almost half of the diligent taxes come from people not paying taxes on equipment, fixtures and appliances inside their buildings, according to Jones.
This tax often applies to rentals and businesses within the county.
“Just like JCPenney, they pay taxes on their building, but they also pay taxes on stuff inside their building, like all of their equipment,” Jones said.
Jones said she thinks one reason this category has gotten so high is because the county no longer prevents businesses from renewing their license if they have unpaid taxes.
“That’s a huge collection tool,” Jones said.
She explained the restructuring of the offices caused this change but she is hoping leaders help reverse the change to get more recourse for the unpaid taxes.
“There’s not really consequences. I mean we really don’t have any recourse, that’s why it’s so important for us to go through each and every one of these bills and see if we can verify if it’s a valid bill or not,” she said.
Unpaid taxes on boats and motors make up around $3 million of the $70 million, according to Jones.
Jones is hoping to add another tax collector to the department next year to help tackle the $70.5 million.
“You’ve got to clean stuff up before you can even figure out where you are,” Jones said.