Assessor FAQ's




Q. What is the Legal Residence discount? Who qualifies?

A. Property owners can apply for the Legal Residence discount for their one legal residence in the state of South Carolina. This means that the qualifying property’s tax value would be assessed at a ratio of four percent rather than six percent to obtain the property’s assessment (assessed value) for tax purposes. Even on a “home place” some of the property may not qualify- for example, rental homes, second homes, commercial property, acreage above five acres, or property receiving another discount, such as agricultural use.

Q. Is there a tax break for agricultural property?

A. Yes. South Carolina Law provides for a substantial tax break on agricultural real property which is actually used for a bona fide agricultural operation. There are two parts of this benefit. First, if qualified, the property’s value is based on “Use Value” which is almost always considerably less than the property’s market value. The “Use Value” is based upon the productive capability of the soil type or types on the property. Second, the assessed value is 4% of the “Use Value” except for some property owned by large corporations, for whom the applicable rate is 6% of “Use Value”.

Q. What must an owner do to get Agricultural Use Value?

A. It is the owner’s responsibility to make sure the initial application and any required future applications are filed with the Assessor’s Office by the first penalty date for taxes due for the first tax year in which the application for use value is claimed. No further application is required until the property ceases to be used for agricultural use or until the property is transferred to someone else.

Q. What qualifies for Agricultural Use?

A. TIMBERLAND: If the tract of land is used to grow timber, the tract must be five (5) acres or more in size. Tracts of timberland of less than five (5) acres which are contiguous to or under the same management system as a tract of timberland which meets the minimum acreage requirement are treated as part of the qualifying tract.

CROPLAND: To qualify for cropland or pasture, the tract must be ten (10) acres or more. Tracts of less than ten (10) acres which are contiguous to other such tracts which, when added together, meet the minimum acreage requirement, are treated as a qualifying tract. Cropland tracts less than ten (10) acres may qualify if the owner earned $1,000 of gross farm income for at least three of the five taxable years preceding the year of the application for agricultural use. The owner may be required to give written authorization consistent with privacy laws allowing the Assessor to verify farm income from the Department of Revenue and Taxation or the Internal Revenue Service. The owner may also be required to provide the Agriculture Stabilization Conservation Service (ASCS) farm identification number of the tract and allow verification with the ACSC office.

Q. What are Rollback Taxes on Agricultural property?

A. When property receives agricultural use classification, a portion of the taxes are deferred, not eliminated. When the property ceases to be used for agricultural purposes, the owner as of December 31 in the year the use change is liable for the difference between the amount to tax paid under agricultural use classification and the amount that would have been paid at full market value classification. These rollback taxes are recovered for five years prior to the change in use of the property.

Q. How are appraisal values determined?

A. Values are calculated using a Mass Appraisal System. The Aiken County Assessor’s Office maintains a database of the physical characteristics for approximately 105,000 properties within Aiken County. The data includes information such as heated square footage, garages, decks, pools, type and quality of construction, land area, water features, and several other attributes required for the mass appraisal process. Properties are then grouped into one of approximately 2,502 appraisal models/neighborhoods based on similar market characteristics.

Certified Real Estate staff appraisers determine land values for each of the appraisal models/neighborhoods based on analysis of vacant and improved property sales. Structural improvements to the land are valued using a market sales modified Marshall & Swift cost service. The valuations produced for each appraisal model are tested for accuracy using actual market sales. After testing, the result of the mass appraisal model for Aiken County is then measured against statistical standards of the International Association of Assessing Officers.

If a model fails the required standards, further review and refinements are necessary before acceptance. Commercial properties may be evaluated on rental income streams, operating expenses, and what kind of investment return can be reasonably expected. Subsequent to the valuation processes and testing, the reappraisal results must be submitted to the South Carolina Department of Revenue for further statistical testing and State approval. The Aiken County Assessor is then notified of the approval and program implementation to the taxpayer.

Q. Why are similar properties appraised at different amounts?

A. Property Tax Reform Act #388 of 2006 and the voter referendum that followed changed the South Carolina Constitution and effectively granted the authority to define Market value for property tax purposes to the South Carolina General Assembly. This authority is in addition to the market value definition found in the South Carolina Constitution but may now be changed at the General Assembly’s discretion. The new definition limits valuation increases during reappraisals to 15% of the base year value (2007) or a current market value when an assessable transfer of interest occurs or the value as determined on appeal. Each property is taxed based on its own unique ownership and acquisition circumstance. Therefore, property tax values may differ greatly on similar properties.



Government Center, 1930 University Pkwy | Aiken, SC 29801 Aiken County Government | © 2018