Changes include annual boat registration fee

With the new year, South Carolina boat owners and buyers will see changes in the way the Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV) issues boat registrations, making the process more like that of registering automobiles.

Phased in over the next three years as current boat registrations expire, the most immediate change will be an annual boat registration, rather than every three years. When fully implemented, the annual registration fee will be included on and paid via the boat owner’s county property tax bill, just like SCDMV vehicle registration fees are paid.

The new regulations also allow counties to collect property taxes on boats prospectively – or in advance – rather than in arrears. Once the property taxes and registration renewal fee for the coming year have been paid, the county will notify the Department of Natural resources (SCDNR) to issue a new set of annual registration numbers for that vessel.

These changes were requested by county governments to aid them in accurately collecting the property taxes due on boats. SCDNR is currently working with tax collection officials in all 46 counties to help implement the new requirements and ensure that boat registrations are integrated into the new, annual system.

Current registrations will continue to be valid until they expire. The new system should also benefit the prospective buyers of used boats, by making it easier to determine if the property taxes on a potential used purchase are current. Buying a boat on which back property taxes are due can cause major delays when the new owner attempts to title and register the vessel.

Registration fees do not increase under the new plan and remain at US$10 annually.