Rollback taxes in SC surprising new property owners

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday, March 12, 2013

GRANITEVILLE, S.C. (WRDW) -- A beautiful home on 4 acres of land now belongs to April Leischner. She inherited it from her parents a little over a year ago.

"Everything was going great, had some little minor details that we needed to fix, until we received a tax bill in the mail that we were not expecting," Leischner said.

The bill wasn't cheap. It was nearly $3,000, and it was due March 3.

"We just thought it was a mistake. We thought it was an honest mistake," she said.

But unfortunately, there was no mistake. $2,800 is a lot for a family on a fixed budget.

"This is like an entire month's salary for us. So the entire month plus, it's gone," Leischner said.

Even though they had already payed the property taxes on the land, this was another tax called a rollback tax under South Carolina state law.

Aiken County Treasurer Linda Sharpe explained, "The law is designed to recoup the normal taxes that would have been paid on a parcel of land."

When land is used for agriculture, it gets special tax breaks. But when you break that land down into smaller pieces and sell it as residential property, the new owners get stuck with the taxes. You can be charged for up to five years worth of previous taxes.

"We really don't like the law, we feels like it sort of penalizes the wrong people. But it's on the books, and we have to carry out the law," Sharpe said.

And even though Leischner's family knows they won't be able to recoup their money, they just want others to be aware that a law like this exists.

"It's one of those things where you take the good with the bad. We've got a beautiful home, we've got beautiful land, and unfortunately, we have to pay the state of South Carolina again."

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