Fort Mill Times

Company cars catching tax man's eye

Driving a company car with out of state tags could put you under scrutiny from Lancaster County's tax enforcement officer.

Until last week, Lancaster County officials weren't clear on how - or if at all - company cars would be taxed. The South Carolina Department of Revenue sent information to the county last week that clarifies how a South Carolina resident can use a company-owned car registered with out-of-state tags.

What they learned, according to County Administrator Steve Willis, is a company car with out-of-state tags is to be driven for work purposes only. If the vehicle is used for personal uses, such as driving kids to school or going shopping, the owner should pay South Carolina taxes.

Roger Sims, tax enforcement officer for Lancaster County, said he expects to hear arguments from some of the drivers of those company cars.

"Most of them disagree [with the interpretation of the law]," Sims said. "I'm going to explain the law and try to be nice. I'll tell them 'this is what you need to do' and give them time to do that."

Since beginning work in Sept. 2007, Sims said he has written more than 175 warnings.

Most of the residents paid their taxes after receiving the warning ticket. Sims has only issued one citation, he added, to an Indian Land resident who failed to comply after being issued a warning.

That resident has requested a jury trial, Sims added.

Warning tickets are always issued first, Sims said. If a resident who receives a warning hasn't properly registered his or her car within 45 days, Sims will write a citation that requires an appearances before a judge.

Penalties can range from a $1,000 fine to one year in jail, although officials said it's unlikely anyone would serve time.

"We're definitely seeing enhanced compliance with the law, which benefits everybody because everybody is paying their fair share," Willis said.

Starting this month, warnings and, if needed, citations will be handed out for people who own company cars and fail to comply with the law, Willis said.

"The key is, it's a company car being used for nothing but company business, you're good to go," Willis said.