Overview of South Carolina Taxes
South Carolina has a progressive income tax rate with the 13th highest top marginal rate in the country and the lowest bottom rate. The state has some of the lowest property and gas taxes in the nation. South Carolina’s total sales tax (state and local) ranks in the top 20 in the U.S.
Number of Personal Exemptions
|Tax Type||Marginal |
|Total Income Taxes|
|Income After Taxes|
Total Estimated Tax Burden $
Percent of income to taxes = %
Total Estimated Tax Burden$
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Jennifer Mansfield, CPA Tax
Jennifer Mansfield, CPA, JD/LLM-Tax, is a Certified Public Accountant with more than 30 years of experience providing tax advice. SmartAsset’s tax expert has a degree in Accounting and Business/Management from the University of Wyoming, as well as both a Masters in Tax Laws and a Juris Doctorate from Georgetown University Law Center. Jennifer has mostly worked in public accounting firms, including Ernst & Young and Deloitte. She is passionate about helping provide people and businesses with valuable accounting and tax advice to allow them to prosper financially. Jennifer lives in Arizona and was recently named to the Greater Tucson Leadership Program.
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South Carolina state tax quick facts
With its sandy beaches and warm weather, South Carolina can be an attractive choice for outsiders looking to relocate. The state’s license plates read, “Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places,” but is the tax system in the Palmetto State as welcoming to newcomers as the scenery and people? The answer depends on the specifics of your situation.
While South Carolina’s top income tax of 7% is the 12th-highest in the country, the bottom rate (0%) is the lowest. The state also has some of the lowest property and gas taxes in the country - but its total sales tax, when including local rates, ranks in the top 20 of U.S. states. Below we’ll look at each of this taxes in depth, with an eye toward rules and exceptions that could save you money.
South Carolina Income Tax
Like the federal income tax, the South Carolina state income tax applies marginal tax rates based on income tax brackets. To put it another way: as income increases, so does the amount of money you pay in taxes on that income. The table below shows the tax rates for all income earners in South Carolina (note that South Carolina does not differentiate between filing statuses such as single filer, married filing jointly or head of household).
Income Tax Brackets
|South Carolina Taxable Income||Rate|
|$0 - $2,930||0.00%|
|$2,930 - $5,860||3.00%|
|$5,860 - $8,790||4.00%|
|$8,790 - $11,720||5.00%|
|$11,720 - $14,650||6.00%|
Those tax rates apply to South Carolina taxable income, which is equal to your federal taxable income, with a few exceptions. The following commonly claimed federal itemized deductions cannot be claimed in South Carolina and must be added back to South Carolina taxable income: state and local taxes, out-of-state losses, expenses related to reserve income and interest income. Taxpayers who claimed the federal standard deduction will receive the same deduction on their South Carolina income taxes.
There are also some adjustments that will reduce your South Carolina taxable income. These include subtractions for out-of-state rental or business income, contributions to the SC College Investment Program (or Tuition Repayment Program), interest from U.S. obligations (savings bonds, treasury notes, etc.) and Social Security income. South Carolina taxpayers may also claim the federal personal exemption of $4,050 for themselves and any dependents who were less than six years old for the entire tax year. Consider looking into online tax software to help file your tax returns.
South Carolina Sales Tax
If you want to buy a laptop, a couch or sunscreen (or almost anything) in South Carolina, you’ll need to pay state and local sales taxes. The state sales tax rate is 6%, which is about average for U.S states. However, South Carolina counties can elect to have a “local option tax” on general sales. The table below shows the state and local sales tax rates for all 46 South Carolina counties.
Sales Tax Rates (Updated January 2018)
|County||State Rate||County Rate||Total Sales Tax|
Sales tax is required on most purchases, with some exceptions. Most services are not taxable in South Carolina (except for hotels and motels, laundry services, electricity and communications services, including TV and internet). While groceries are typically exempt from the statewide sales tax, local tax rates still apply to all food. Automobiles, boats, aircraft and other recreational vehicles are subject to a sales tax cap of $500 and local taxes are not due on these purchases.
South Carolinians looking for a break from sales tax get one weekend of sales-tax free purchases—on certain items. The sales tax holiday begins on the first Friday in August and runs through the weekend. During that time, purchases of clothing, school supplies, computers, linens and bathroom items, such as towels, shower curtains and bath mats, are exempt from sales tax.
South Carolina Property Tax
By law, the local option sales taxes in South Carolina are enacted in order to reduce county property taxes. That, in part, explains why property taxes in the Palmetto State are so low. The state’s average effective property tax rate - annual taxes paid as a percentage of home value - are the fifth-lowest in the country at just 0.57%. South Carolinians pay an average of $821 a year in property taxes. Something to keep in mind if you’re thinking about moving to Myrtle Beach.
Whether you’re looking to buy your dream vacation home in Myrtle Beach or refinance your current home elsewhere in the state, take a look at our South Carolina mortgage guide to learn all the details about mortgages in the Palmetto State.
South Carolina Capital Gains Tax
Capital gains are taxed at two different levels in South Carolina. First, short-term capital gains (those realized in less than a year) are considered normal taxable income and taxed at the rates, up to 7%, listed above. For long-term gains, 44% of the “net capital gain” is exempt. The net capital gain is the net long-term gain (of more than a year) minus any short-term loss for the taxable year.
South Carolina Cigarette Tax
South Carolina cigarette tax is just 57 cents per pack of 20. That’s the seventh-lowest rate in the country.
South Carolina Alcohol Tax
Alcoholic beverage excise and sales taxes in South Carolina are among the highest in the U.S. In addition to general state and local sales taxes (described above), the state collects excise taxes of $5.42 per gallon of liquor, $1.08 per gallon of wine and $0.77 per gallon of beer. All of these are above average, and the beer tax ranks as the seventh-highest in the U.S.
South Carolina Gas Tax
The gas tax in South Carolina is the fourth-lowest in the country. The state collects an excise tax of just 18 cents with an additional 0.75 cents in fees, for a total tax of 18.75 cents. This is low but the state will raise the tax two cents ever year until it reaches 28 cents in July 2022. That higher tax will put South Carolina’s gas tax near the national average.
Photo credit: flickr
Places with the Lowest Tax Burden
Are you curious how your tax burden stacks up against others in your state? SmartAsset’s interactive map highlights the counties with the lowest tax burden. Scroll over any county in the state to learn about taxes in that specific area.
Where you live can have a big impact on both which types of taxes you have to pay each year and how much money you spend on them. SmartAsset calculated the amount of money a specific person would pay in income, sales, property and fuel taxes in each county in the country and ranked the lowest to highest tax burden.
To better compare income tax burdens across counties, we used the national median household income. We then applied relevant deductions and exemptions before calculating federal, state and local income taxes.
In order to determine sales tax burden we estimated that 35% of take-home (after-tax) pay is spent on taxable goods. We multiplied the average sales tax rate for a county by the household income less income tax. This product is then multiplied by 35% to estimate the sales tax paid.
For property taxes, we compared the median property taxes paid in each county.
For fuel taxes, we first distributed statewide vehicle miles traveled down to the county level using the number of vehicles in each county. We then calculated the total number of licensed drivers within each county. The countywide miles were then distributed amongst the licensed drivers in the county, which gave us the miles driven per licensed driver. Using the nationwide average fuel economy, we calculated the average gallons of gas used per driver in each county and multiplied that by the fuel tax.
We then added the dollar amount for income, sales, property and fuel taxes to rank the counties to calculate a total tax burden.