Berkeley and Dorchester counties have taken a sensible step to try to pick up some extra tax money ó without raising taxes.

It is a good opportunity for the Charleston County assessor to observe how it works and determine if itís also a sensible step for Charleston County.

It appears Berkeley and Dorchester have nothing to lose by hiring a North Carolina company to help them audit their property tax rolls and identify people who are not in compliance. And they could have plenty to gain.

For example, a homeowner can claim only one address as his primary residence. And second homes are taxed at a higher rate.

Tax Management Associates, Inc., receives a percentage of whatever new income the audit brings in by identifying people who should pay more. Its take cannot exceed 30 percent. Counties have tried to gather this information on their own, avoiding that cost, but information changes every year and sorting it out is labor intensive. They must balance how much staff time to spend on the project against how much new revenue it would bring.

In addition, state law is changing to tighten loopholes regarding tax breaks. Now, it will not be allowed for a husband to claim his primary residence is in Charleston and his wife to claim an out-of-state house as her primary residence. Also, people who own part interest in a property will not qualify for the full tax break.

TMA describes its mission as making sure homeowners pay what they owe legally.

Thatís a reasonable goal, and if it helps Berkeley and Dorchester county budgets, without raising tax rates, itís worth the effort.