If you just turned 65, South Carolina has a gift for you.
In fact, South Carolina has a long list of tax breaks and discounts for the elderly.
For starters, the year a resident reaches the age of 65, even if it's on the last day of the year, they are entitled to deduct $15,000 from their taxable income for that year. For a married couple where each spouse is at least 65, that's a tax deduction of up to $30,000, which would save the couple up to $2,100 in state income tax.
On top of that, South Carolina does not tax Social Security benefits, as some states do. So, retirees at 65-plus are not taxed on Social Security payments, or on the next $15,000 in income they receive from any source.
Next comes a tax break on property taxes.
Homeowners who reach the magic age of 65 can get an exemption from paying any property tax on the first $50,000 of their home's value. The same tax break is available to the blind and those considered totally, permanently disabled.
To qualify for the property tax exemption, the home in question must be the applicant's legal residence (approved for the 4 percent assessment ratio), and in order to receive the exemption, the homeowner needs to fill out an application with the county auditor's office. The applicant must have lived in South Carolina for at least a full year, prior to the year they obtain the exemption.
That property tax break is currently worth about $320 yearly for a Charleston resident. The amount any particular person would save would depend on the tax rates where they live, but in most cases, it's around $300, and the state reimburses local governments for the revenue.
After the property tax break comes a little tax break on vehicle fees. At 65, you pay $20 for vehicle registration, instead of the usual $24
-- small change compared to the other tax breaks.
At 65, you also can decline to serve on city, county or state jury duty in South Carolina, which could save money for those who would lose employment income by serving. Jurors who do serve are paid a small stipend. You'll have to wait until age 70 to opt out of federal jury duty.
Also at 65, a half-price Palmetto Passport annual pass is available for South Carolina state parks, a $37.50 savings from the regular price. They can be purchased at any S.C. state park office.
Starting a year earlier, at age 64, lifetime hunting and fishing licenses can be purchased for $9 by South Carolina residents. At age 63, the same combination license would cost $810, so that's a big savings.
All of those discounts and tax breaks are worth thousands of dollars yearly, but those are just the statewide benefits.
Local and county governments generally offer age-based discounts for recreation programs and the use of public golf courses. For example, an annual pass to Charleston County parks is discounted by $15 starting at age 60.
State-supported colleges and technical schools, under state law, must offer low-cost or no-cost classes for retired seniors on a space-available basis, usually starting at age 60. So, now is your chance to get that degree in physics. The cost of books and course materials can be costly, but free tuition's a great benefit.
There also are discounts to be found at cultural attractions, and many businesses, such as movie theaters and grocery stores, offer discounts for seniors.
So, if you're in your 60s, you've got some tax breaks coming in South Carolina, and some things are going to become much more affordable, from college classes to fishing.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552. On Facebook: David Slade - Post and Courier. On Twitter: @DSladeNews.
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