Fort Mill Times

No tally yet on tax error

The York County Council could consider giving Lancaster County tax revenue York County mistakenly received from Panhandle companies.

Businesses of varying sizes are part of a list of companies that paid sales tax to the wrong county last year. The mistake was traced to an error by the S.C. Department of Revenue.

York County Finance Director Beth Latham said last week she didn't immediately know how much money was incorrectly given to York County and that it will take time to determine the amount. Returning that money to Lancaster County would require a vote by the York County Council, she said.

Latham reported the problem to York County Council Chairman Buddy Motz and said she'll wait to hear from the council to determine her next step. Meanwhile, she said she is pulling numbers to determine how much revenue came from Indian Land companies.

The companies, identified by the department of revenue, range from large businesses, such as Cemex Construction Materials, to Ed Shelton's home-based carpet cleaning company, Green Clean Steamer LLC.

Shelton said he was surprised to hear that his taxes were among those paid to York County instead of Lancaster County, but that his small business doesn't typically pay more than $50 a year in sales tax.

"My taxes are very small," Shelton said. "I'm not a big store with big sales. But on the other hand it concerns me for the people running big stores. That's a lot of money going to the wrong place."

The department of revenue listed 29707, the ZIP code covering Indian Land, as a York County ZIP code, which led many Panhandle businesses to pay their taxes to York County. Lancaster County Administrator Steve Willis said he learned about the problem after the fire marshal noticed the wrong prefix on a retail license for Phantom Fireworks.

The error has since been corrected.

Adrienne Fairwell, spokesperson for the department, said that the all of the information they have, including ZIP code information, is supplied by the individual counties and any error made was made by the county.

According to the department of revenue, there is no way to get that money back because of a state statute that says errors such as this can only be corrected for future payments, but not retroactively.

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.

Willis is quick to say York County is not to blame for the confusion.

"I have no reason to think this is anything more than an administrative error," Willis said.