Your South Carolina Homestead Exemption Questions Answered

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Your South Carolina Homestead Exemption Questions Answered

If you live in or moving to South Carolina and are over 65 years of age, chances are that you’ve heard of the Homestead Exemption. While this benefit is free for all to claim, not everyone knows everything they need to know in order to claim it. In this blog post, we tackle all the questions you might have regarding this type of assistance and also provide pointers on how you can claim it, should you be eligible. Read on below to find out more about South Carolina’s Homestead Exemption. 

What Is the Homestead Exemption?

The entire state of South Carolina provides homeowners with special provisions on their property taxes if they are 65 years of age and older, provided that they’ve lived in the state for a minimum of one year. These benefits are generally available for surviving spouses, as long as the deceased spouse was 65 years old or over. In addition, the surviving spouse needs to be 50 years of age or older. 

This useful benefit is known as homestead tax exemption, which is designed to provide the first $50,000 of a properties’ fair market value. This includes mobile homes within a leased land, which will be exempted from school, county, municipal, and special assessment property taxes. To get this exemption, you will need to apply before the 15th of July in the year when you wish to claim the exemption through your county auditor's office.

Homestead Exemption Program Details

Under Section 12-37-250 of the South Carolina Code of Laws, the Homestead Exemption Program is a State-funded program which exempts $50,000 from the market value of a primary residence. If your primary residence has a value of $50,000 or less, then it shall be free from all property taxes. However, this program shouldn’t be confused with the Application for Special Assessment as Legal Residence 4% — this is done through the Tax Assessor's Office. 

If the deed is under your name as well as your spouse’s, you will be able to receive the whole $50,000 exemption, assuming that you meet the requirements for eligibility. If the deed is in your name and someone else who isn’t your spouse, you will only get a part of the exemption that’s equal to the amount of interest that you might have on the property according to your deed. Furthermore, state property taxes that have been paid could be fully deductible for the purposes of federal income tax, as long as you itemize your deductions for your federal return. 

Am I Eligible to Receive the Homestead Exemption?

In order to qualify for the Homestead Exemption, you will need to prove the following: 

  • You’re the title holder of your main legal residence, the life estate to your main legal residence, or you are the beneficiary of a trust which holds the title to your main legal residence. 
  • You are a legal resident of South Carolina for a whole calendar year as of December 31 in the year when you wish to claim the exemption. When claiming your exemption on December 31 in the year when you wish to claim the exemption, at least one of these statements need to be true: 
  1. You are 65 years old.
  2. You are declared to be permanently or totally disabled by a federal or state agency who has the authority to make this declaration.
  3. You are legally blind and are certified by a licensed ophthalmologist.

Where Can I Apply for My Homestead Exemption?

For application information and further assistance, you can contact the County Auditor’s Office in your county. If you are unable to visit personally, you may authorize someone (preferably a family member) to file an application for you. However, if there is no one available to assist in your application, you may contact an agent to make an application on your behalf. You will need to provide proof of your age, such as your driver’s license, birth certificate, Medicaid card and Medicare card. 

What Documents Do I Need To Prove My Eligibility When Applying?

This is not a complete list, but includes some of the most common documents that you can use as proof of your eligibility when applying due to blindness, disability, or age. 

  • If you’re applying as a result of blindness, you’ll need to show documentation as provided by a licensed ophthalmologist, along with a photo identification.
  • If you’re applying as a result of disability, you’ll need to show documentation as provided by the federal or state agency that will certify the disability. An individual claiming to be permanently and totally disabled but hasn’t been classified as such through one of the agencies can apply for the state agency of Vocational Rehabilitation. 

You’ll also need to bring your SC Driver’s License or a South Carolina issued identification card. In addition, you might be asked to present a Proof of Benefit Form or the Reward Letter from the Social Security Administration. To get these forms, you may contact Social Security at 1-877-505-4549. 

  • If you’re applying as a result of age, you will need to present your birth certificate or South Carolina Driver’s License. If you have neither, you can bring a South Carolina issued identification card, and you’ll need to provide your Social Security number. 
  • If you’re the income beneficiary of a trust, you’ll have to present a copy of the trust agreement in addition.  
  • You may be asked to provide a marriage license or certificate during the verification process, so be sure to bring this along with you. 

Will I Have to Reapply Every Year?

No. For homestead exemption there’s no need to re-apply annually, but there are exemptions to this rule, such as: 

  • The death of the home’s eligible owner
  • Moving to a new home
  • A change of ownership 
  • Changes in your disability status 
  • The rental of your home 
  • The surviving spouse’s remarriage 

If any of these changes occur, it may affect your eligibility and will need to be immediately reported to your County Auditor.   

Can a Surviving Spouse Collect the Homestead Exemption Benefit?

If you are qualified or potentially qualified for the Homestead Exemption, your surviving spouse may receive this benefit, provided that you were eligible for it at the time of death. The surviving spouse will also need to meet all of these conditions: 

  • They remain unmarried.
  • They live in the home and use it as their primary legal residence.
  • Obtains a life estate or complete fee simple title, or you are beneficiary of a trust which holds the title to the legal residence. This will need to be done within nine months after the qualifying spouse’s death. 

If I Move, Will I Still Qualify for the Homestead Exemption?

Yes, you may still qualify for your new residence, as long as you continue to meet the following requirements: 

  • You’re the title holder of your main legal residence, the life estate to your main legal residence, or you are the beneficiary of a trust which holds the title to your main legal residence. 
  • You are a legal resident of South Carolina for a whole calendar year as of December 31 in the year when you wish to claim the exemption. When claiming your exemption on December 31 in the year when you wish to claim the exemption, at least one of these statements need to be true: 
  1. You are 65 years old.
  2. You are declared to be permanently or totally disabled by a federal or state agency who has the authority to make this declaration. 
  3. You are legally blind and certified by a licensed ophthalmologist.

When Should I Apply for the Homestead Exemption?

Your County Homestead Coordinator will typically accept applications during these periods: 

  • Pre-Application Period: This occurs after your 65th birthday or when classified to be legally blind or completely disabled. You can send in your application between July 16th and December 31st. 
  • Application Period: This occurs in the year after you turn 65 years of age or when classified to be legally blind or completely disabled. You can send your application in between January 1st and July 15th.
  • Post-Application Period: You may apply between July 16th and during the time before the first penalty date in the year when you wish to claim the exemption. 

Furthermore, if you make your application during the post-application period and are deemed qualified, you could be eligible for a refund in the following year. 

Where Can I Find Assistance for My Homestead Exemption?

If you need further assistance regarding your Homestead Exemption application, the South Carolina Joint Legislative Committee on Aging will be able to assist you. They strive to help the senior community by introducing legislation to combat the inequities in our laws. You can find them via the following contacts: 

Joint Legislative Committee on Aging

  • Post Office Box 11867
    Columbia, South Carolina 29211
  • Telephone: (803) 734-2995

Apart from the Homestead Exemption Program, there are several other programs and services that qualified individuals can take advantage of. To find out more about these useful services, contact: 

Department of Health and Human Services Office of Aging

  • Post Office Box 8206
    Columbia, South Carolina 29202
  • Telephone: (803) 253-6100

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