S.C. County May Cut Taxes to Lure GA Aircraft

"We'll lose a little, but we're hoping that will be made up by people who'll register their planes here."

AIKEN, S.C. - Airplane owners in Aiken County could get a break on taxes when they get their bills later this year.

The county is considering dropping the personal property tax rate on aircraft from 10.5 percent to 6 percent, which officials hope will entice more owners to register their planes here rather than in neighboring counties with lower taxes.

"Maybe the tax rates are so high that over time, we are losing tax revenue," council member Gary Bunker said.

The county's administrative committee ordered this week that 6 percent be the rate used in the upcoming budget, which is the same rate car owners pay.

Council member Charles Barton, who is on the administrative committee, said he was not comfortable with a tax rate any lower, and that he didn't approve of "taxing someone with a car more than someone with an airplane."

It's not known how much revenue would be lost if the county council approves the proposal, said Joan Donnelly, the assistant county administrator.

"We'll lose a little, but we're hoping that will be made up by people who'll register their planes here," she said.

There are 63 planes registered in Aiken County with an average value of about $63,000 each. Ms. Donnelly said those planes brought in $64,058 in taxes during the 2006-07 tax year.

Barnwell has the lowest rates in this area - 4 percent. Edgefield County has a 10.5 percent rate, the maximum allowed by state law.

Richmond County levies a lower tax on airplanes than Aiken, but it uses a different taxing method, which makes comparison difficult. However, an owner of a plane worth $50,000 would pay $714.80 in Richmond County and $1,182.30 under Aiken County's current rate.

Cyrus Spradley, the Aiken County auditor, told the committee Tuesday that he knows of at least one owner of a high-valued plane who keeps the aircraft in Barnwell because of its lower tax rate.

Others could follow suit, he said.

"There are one or two who are going to leave if you (don't reduce the rate)," he told the committee. "You're going to lose either way."

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