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From the Business Newsletter

As short-term rental rules tighten, one site changes how it does business in SC

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You’re seeing the Post and Courier's twice weekly business newsletter. Get all the openings, closings, and the business stories that are shaping Charleston and South Carolina here.

Good afternoon. I was excited to join Brooks Brunson and Emory Parker for another episode of our Understand SC podcast this week. This time, we talked about the Medal of Honor Museum, or rather, museums. One project left, then another got underway. Listen here to get the full story.    

THE ONE TO WATCH: Short-term rentals and SC taxes 

Short Term Rentals (copy) (copy) (copy)

Commercial properties on Spring and Cannon streets qualify for short-term rentals. VRBO, a vacation rental platform, starting collecting taxes on behalf of hosts in South Carolina on Sept. 1, 2019. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

This month, one of the leading short-term rental platforms made a substantial change in South Carolina, though guests booking stays won't notice it. VRBO, a competitor of sites like Airbnb, is now collecting and remitting vacation rental taxes in the state.

Owners listing their homes on VRBO had been responsible for calculating and collecting taxes on the city, county and state levels themselves. Now, as of Sept. 1, the platform is collecting all South Carolina taxes on behalf of the hosts. 

Rob Stephens, who founded MyLodgeTax, a tax collection and remittance software for short-term rental platforms, said the change should be helpful, but hosts in the Palmetto State still need to be vigilant about tax compliance.

"They need to understand what each platform is doing," he said. 

Many hosts list properties across multiple platforms, Stephens said, and there are often discrepancies between what taxes are collected on a host's behalf on one short-term rental platform versus another. 

For example, Airbnb collects state taxes and specific local taxes that are collected by the state. But the site does not collect any additional taxes on the local level, meaning owners are responsible for collecting and paying those charges to the applicable counties and cities themselves. 

The short-term rental industry is "an evolving landscape," Stephens said. A decade ago, they were a niche part of the lodging market, operating relatively under the radar. VRBO, which is short for Vacation Rentals by Owner, was founded in 1995. Airbnb launched its platform in 2008.

But it wasn't until the last several years that cities in South Carolina started trying to rein in the industry with new task forces and ordinances. In addition to parking requirements and rules related to safety, that enforcement also includes tax compliance. 

Charleston has been enforcing its short-term rental rules for more than a year now. The town of Kiawah Island, a community well-known for its luxury vacation accommodations, is in the process of writing its own rules. Even Conway in Horry County, which has just about 15 homes being operated as short-term rentals, is considering new regulations

Recently, the Town of Mount Pleasant adopted new rules for short-term rentals and approved a proposal to cap the number of the vacation rental units at 1 percent of the total housing stock. 

A limited number of rentals could be exempt from that cap, but only if the owner had all the necessary permissions from the town and had been paying all of the required taxes. 

The S.C. Department of Revenue classifies stays of fewer than 90 consecutive days as short-term rentals. The current state sales tax rate in S.C. for short-term rentals is 7 percent. Additional city and county taxes vary. 

It can get confusing for owners, Stephens said, especially for those who opened up a spare room to make extra cash, perhaps not knowing that paying sales and accommodations taxes would be required. 

But just like a hotel, the rentals are expected to pay into accommodations tax funds, which support marketing organizations that draw in tourists and pay for projects, such as museums or parks, that may draw more visitors to their doorsteps. 

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  • Spanglish Cocina + Bar is now serving Cuban cuisine in West Ashley
  • Food Lion will be taking over the shuttered Bi-Lo store in Goose Creek
  • Lewis Barbecue has a new food trailer inspired by time in New Mexico.
  • Seafood restaurant Gilligan's has closed its doors in Mount Pleasant.
  •  East Bay True Value Hardware has opened at its new King St. location. 
  • A Hardee's and a Burger King, both in Mount Pleasantmay be demolished to make way for two new Chase Bank locations. 
We're starting a weekly newsletter about the business stories that are shaping Charleston and South Carolina. Get ahead with us - it's free.


  • Uber and Lyft are against a new fee at Charleston's airport. A $3.50 charge would be added for every passenger dropoff. (Post and Courier)
  • South Carolina is supporting Purdue Pharma's settlement plan. The OxyContin maker has filed for bankruptcy protection. (Post and Courier)
  • Richland County Council has cleared the way for a development which would put about 200 houses on a closed golf course. (Post and Courier)
  • The Federal Reserve cut interest rates Wednesday for the second time in seven weeks in an effort to prop up the slowing U.S. economy. (NPR)
  • Here's another deep dive into what really brought down Boeing's 737 Max. It's written by a journalist who's also a professional pilot. (NYT Magazine)


Residential advisors in the 'Going Home for Good' reentry program (copy)

Residential advisers in Lieber Correctional Institution's new Going Home for Good reentry program stand outside the reentry center during an official ribbon-cutting for the facility. Provided/S.C. Department of Corrections

"Hey boss, did you know about 85 percent of offenders spend less than five years in South Carolina’s prisons?"

That's one of the reasons why the S.C. Department of Corrections started a reentry program in 2014, first at minimum and medium security facilities. Last week, the SCDC opened its first-ever reentry and job training center in a maximum security prison in Dorchester County. 

Unlike the other reentry programs, many of the offenders will be joining the workforce again after serving decades-long sentences. Read more here


  • Pascale Harvie was promoted to president and general manager for Europe operations at Blackbaud Inc. Previously, she was the company's managing director for consumer solutions in the Asia-Pacific region. 
  • Moneypenny's vice president of operations for North America is now Mel Carlen. Previously, Carlen was the head of information technology there.
  • The executive director of the nonprofit Summerville DREAM is now Steve Doniger. He has more than 25 years of experience in business development, events management and marketing. 

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Reach Emily Williams at 843-937-5553. Follow her on Twitter @emilye_williams.

Emily Williams is a business reporter at The Post and Courier, covering tourism and aerospace. She also writes the Business Headlines newsletter and co-hosts the weekly podcast Understand SC.

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