Fort Mill Times

ZIP glitch will cost Lancaster tax money

An error by the South Carolina Department of Revenue caused 32 Indian Land businesses to pay taxes to the wrong county.

The department of revenue lists 29707, the ZIP code covering Indian Land, as a York County ZIP code, which led many Panhandle businesses to pay taxes to York County.

The bad news, according to Lancaster County Administrator Steve Willis, is that there is no way to get that money back. Willis contacted the department of revenue, which referred him to a state statute that says errors such as this can only be corrected for future payments, but not retroactively.

The error at the department of revenue has been corrected, according to Willis, who said, "I couldn't even venture a guess" at the amount of tax revenue that should have gone to Lancaster County, but went to York County instead.

County Auditor Cheryl Morgan would not release the names of the individual businesses, citing concerns that the information is not public record. However, the department of revenue said it would release the names of the business as soon as they could be compiled. A list was not available by press time Monday.

Morgan did say the businesses were a mix of large companies and smaller, local companies.

Although most Panhandle businesses are probably aware that they are in Lancaster County, in many instances, the people responsible for filling out tax documents are not working onsite, Willis said.

"Folks here may understand they are in Lancaster County but the home office is filling out the paper work and they don't know beans about which county it's in," Willis said.

Taxes paid to York County in error were applied to the Pennies for Progress program rather than being used to roll back Lancaster County residents' property taxes via the Local Option Sales Tax.

Because of the tax error, Willis said it seems more important than ever to have a Lancaster County business license to help ensure businesses pay their taxes to the correct county. Willis is working with the Chamber of Commerce to develop a business license ordinance.

When the ordinance is complete, it will be presented to the council for approval.

Willis said in a memo to the council, "The money lost from sales as well as unreported business inventory taxes, coupled with the fees from a modest business license could [significantly] reduce property taxes within Lancaster County."