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Edgefield County overcharging taxpayers is standard operating procedure


A Column by the Editor
web posted January 1, 2009
COLUMN – I have written several times about the tax practices of Edgefield County, especially when it comes to car taxes. I have told readers how to drastically cut your car taxes, as I will explain again in this column, but I would like to point out the disparity in the values used by the Auditor’s Office to determine your taxes and the actual value of your automobile.

Edgefield County bills taxes at the “highest and best use”. This means that every car, boat, or other taxable item is billed as if it is in excellent condition. We all know that a vehicle that is several years old is never in “excellent condition” even if well maintained. A well maintained vehicle would be in “good condition” at best and most would fall under the “fair condition”.

You would think that would be reflected in your tax bill. Guess again.

This was painfully evident when I went to pay the car taxes on one of our cars, a 2000 Cadillac Catera. According to the Auditor’s Office, the lowest value of the car, even if in need of major repair and having high mileage was $3,500.

That differed greatly from the Kelly Blue Book value that said with just over 100,000 miles and in mint condition the best expected value was just over $2,500. In “fair condition” the value was just over $1,500, more than double the lowest value used by the county to bill the vehicle tax.

The original tax bill sent out placed the taxes at just under $100 (including the $10 road maintenance fee, otherwise known as an additional tax).

However, a quick visit to Kelly Blue Book (www.kbb.com) and selecting “Used Car Values”, gives you a step-by-step pricing guide to find the true value of your vehicle. After choosing the year, make, model, and condition, including your zip code, you can find the actual value of your car. Print this off and take it to the Auditor’s Office to have your tax bill corrected to the value they should be billing you for.

After doing so for our Catera (I do this for every vehicle we own prior to paying the taxes) the tax bill dropped to just over $66. That’s a 30% savings. (Depending on make, model, and year savings can range between 25% and 40%.)

My question is why the lowest rate provided by the county for a “poor condition” Catera is 30% off from one in mint condition?

Answer, because most people will just write a check and take their word for it.

As I have always said, never pay the tax bill sent to you by the county. Challenge everything be it your car, boat, or home.

However, there are two instances where this will not work. The first is if you bought your car new or if you just bought a used car. Those values are established at the time of sale. However, you can apply this principle the following year and see the savings.

It is nice to know that our county government is taking every opportunity to stick it to you when you least expect it. My advice, always expect Edgefield County government to take you for every penny they can take you for any chance they get.

Things are no better in the Tax Assessor’s Office. Tax values are well known to be placed on property sight unseen from out of the thin air. This brings me to another question. Why, if housing prices have plummeted over the past two years, are citizens of Edgefield County still being assessed at such a high rate?

I think it is time to have another “reassessment” since former County Administrator Wayne Adams, and the County Council, jumped the gun and reassessed earlier than required. If they had waited until the proper time you would see a far different tax bill this year.

 
 




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