Tax solution reduces paperwork, headaches for Boeing, Charleston County

Production workers at Boeing Co.'s North Charleston facilities, including the 787 Dreamliner campus, will vote Wednesday on whether they want to be represented in contract negotiations by the International Association of Machinists union.  File/Staff

Boeing Co.’s Dreamliner campus will see fewer vehicle tax bills arriving in the mail as part of a Charleston County effort to simplify the aerospace giant’s paperwork.

Boeing — which owns dozens of vehicles at its North Charleston campus, where it makes the 787 Dreamliner commercial plane — asked the Charleston County Economic Development department this year if the tax bills for those vehicles could be consolidated to improve efficiency. In addition to the vehicles, Boeing is taxed on hundreds of assets, including buildings, machinery, equipment and tools.

“It was a real chore,” said Mark Pilling, a procurement agent for Boeing’s Shared Services Group. “We’d get a tax bill in and we couldn’t figure out how to pay it because Boeing’s procurement system is not that friendly.”

After studying the request, county Auditor Peter Tecklenburg and Treasurer Andy Smith created a program that allows Boeing to set up an escrow account and make an estimated payment for their current fleet inventory. Tax bills are charged against that account throughout the year and monthly reports showing balances, payments and adjustments for new vehicles are generated so the county and Boeing can keep up with the transactions.

The treasurer’s office handles the account and the payments while the auditor’s office handles the billing and database of Boeing vehicles. The auditor’s office also provides information to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles as part of the vehicle registration process.

County officials say the combined effort of those offices streamlines the tax process for Boeing and adds efficiencies for the company as it grows. Charleston County Council recognized Tecklenburg, Smith and the economic development department during its June 21 meeting for their efforts to streamline Boeing’s tax paperwork.

“One of the main aspects that keeps my job interesting is the constant challenge to solve problems,” Tecklenburg said in a statement. “I am very pleased that Boeing was able to benefit from the team efforts of my office, the treasurer, and economic development.”

Pilling, speaking during the June 21 meeting, called the program “a real step in the right direction.”

“It shows you we can all work together when we put our minds to it,” he said.

Tecklenburg said the program also could be adopted for other area businesses.

“It’s nice to see three different government agencies coming together to make things happen for our business community,” said County Council Chairman Elliott Summey.

Reach David Wren at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_