Several notable changes take effect Saturday for South Carolina drivers.
July 1 marks the first day of a 2 cents per-gallon increase in the state’s gas tax, rising from nearly 17 cents to 19 cents per-gallon. It’s the first stage of an eventual 12-cent increase by 2023. The increase comes at the start of South Carolina’s new fiscal year, which also begins July 1. Legislators approved the increase in May, overriding a veto by Gov. Henry McMaster.
Another change taking effect Saturday requires drivers who register their vehicles in South Carolina to pay a new “Infrastructure Maintenance Fee” which would go towards road repairs and maintenance projects. The fee would be entirely new for out-of-state residents registering their cars in South Carolina for the first time. For South Carolina drivers buying their car locally, it would be an increase over the former vehicle sales tax.
Department of Motor Vehicles Director Kevin Shwedo said there was a rush on DMV offices Thursday and Friday by drivers hoping to beat the deadline and save hundreds of dollars. “When you have a 25 percent increase in people trying to, if you will, beat the date… that causes increases in lines and other things,” he told South Carolina Radio Network.
Drivers who move to the state with a vehicle, trailer, semi-trailer, or other automobile that must be registered must now pay a $250 fee, plus any necessary title, registration fees and property taxes.
Residents who buy a new vehicle in South Carolina will also now pay more for the purchase. Previously, the state’s five percent sales tax maximized at $300 total. However, legislators determined the new IMF would raise the cap to $500. In other words, any car, truck, motorcycle or boat bought for less than $10,000 would have a five percent fee. Any vehicle bought for $10,000 or more would have a total $500 fee.
While the DMV will collect the fees, the revenue will ultimately go to the state Department of Transportation. Legislators moved from a sales tax to a fee because taxes cannot be used to borrow additional road construction money through bonds, but fees can.
The new law also increases the state registration fee, but that change will not take effect until January 2018.