Court Rules Against Hilton Head Couple After Anonymous Tip
By Sarita Chourey
Morris News Service
June 28, 2012 — COLUMBIA -- Somewhere a nameless tax code vigilante may be toasting the day's victory.
The Beaufort County assessor's office, too, had reason to be glad for Wednesday's ruling by the S.C. Court of Appeals.
In it the court affirmed the state Administrative Law Court's decision against a Hilton Head Island couple who had leased their home during the summer and enjoyed a lower assessment ratio.
In 2008 Gregory and Leslie Ford leased their home in Hilton Head Island for 91 days, earning $76,500.
They paid accommodations taxes on their rental income. Meantime, the couple lived in a rented apartment in Sea Pines, according to court decision.
And somebody didn't like that.
In August of 2008, the county assessor received an anonymous letter stating the Fords, though "claiming the house as their permanent residence, and being taxed at the 4 percent rate," "are not in residence and are renting the house out on the weekly rental market during the summer weeks for income purposes."
So the county assessor got involved and informed the Fords that their application for a 4-percent assessment ratio on their home was denied since their property was rented for longer than 14 calendar days.
They appealed the assessor's decision to the Beaufort County Tax Equalization Board. The board held a conference on the dispute and sided with the assessor. The Fords appealed to the Administrative Law Court and were similarly rebuffed.
Under South Carolina law, a legal residence who is not eligible to be taxed at the 4 percent ratio generally owes taxes based on an assessment ratio equal to 6 percent of its fair market value.
Efforts to reach the couple by email and cellphone were unsuccessful Wednesday.
This story submitted from Chourey, Sarita using email address firstname.lastname@example.org