Horry County working to recover millions of dollars in unpaid property taxes

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Thousands of property owners in Horry County haven’t been paying their taxes, causing the county to lose millions of dollars in tax revenue.

The Horry County Assessor’s Office is working to recover about $3 million of unpaid property taxes. Department Head Larry Roscoe says about half of those property owners just forgot to notify the county when they moved, while “the other half are people who are actively seeking to deceive the county about their residency status here.” Property owners in Horry County who actually live in their homes pay about 60% less in taxes than owners of rental properties or second homes. Roscoe says, “on your typical house it’s probably a $1,500 to $1,600 difference.”

The department is actively trying to track down property owners who haven’t paid the proper taxes. Roscoe says online residential databases have been a big help in this effort. He’s also specifically dedicated a team of assessors to recovering that money. “They basically review our tax roll and look for high likely targets so to speak, people who have changed their billing address maybe to a post office box out of town.”

So far the Assessor’s Office has collected about 2 of the 3 million dollars they’ve sent bills for. About 80% of that money goes straight to Horry County Schools. “If you’re getting these exemptions, then most of the money that you’re saving is actually depriving the schools in the community that you live in of their funding,” says Roscoe.

He says if this problem grows, Horry County residents could see a tax increase. “The county has to provide a service to citizens and that cost doesn’t change, regardless of how these people file for their taxes, so it’s up to us to make sure that we get everybody paying their fair share, so that we don’t have to raise taxes on everybody else because of the bad actions of a few.”