South Carolina vacation rental tax guide
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Airbnb and Vrbo have changed the way vacationers travel. More and more guests are choosing to rent private homes rather than book hotels. With a bounty of popular destinations including Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head, and Charleston, the Palmetto State offers prospective short-term rental hosts the opportunity to bring in extra income and meet new people.
But new income opportunities bring new tax implications. Like hotel and B&B stays, short-term rentals in South Carolina are subject to tax. Tax authorities require short-term vacation rental hosts to collect applicable short-term rental taxes from their guests and remit them to the proper authorities.
Failure to comply with state and local tax laws can result in fines and interest penalties. These may not catch up with vacation rental operators in the short term, but the sharing economy is under increased scrutiny so it’s important to address compliance before tax authorities address it for you.
Avalara MyLodgeTax has put together this guide to help you comply with South Carolina short-term rental tax laws. For more information on the tax rates and jurisdictions that apply to your rental’s specific location, use our lodging tax lookup tool.
No short-term vacation rental tax guide is a substitute for professional tax advice. Consider this an asset to help you understand and prioritize your vacation rental questions and concerns. Questions pertaining to specific situations or out-of-the-ordinary conditions are best solved with a certified tax professional familiar with South Carolina tax laws.
Short-term rental tax basics
When you start operating a short-term rental, while might not have experience with lodging taxes, you’re probably familiar with income tax. It’s important to understand the difference between the two.
Income tax is reported and paid annually to the federal government and many state governments on “taxable” income, which is income after allowed expense deductions. You pay this tax directly to the government.
Lodging tax on a short-term rental is a percentage of the cost of your guest’s stay that is added to the price of the bill. The guest pays the tax, but you’re responsible for collecting the tax and paying it to the proper tax authority.
What’s the definition of “short-term rental” in South Carolina?
For tax purposes, short-term rentals in South Carolina are defined as reservations of less than 90 continuous days.
Who’s required to collect and file taxes on short-term rentals in South Carolina?
If you collect payment from short-term guests renting out an apartment, house, or other dwelling, you’re likely responsible for collecting, filing, and remitting short-term rental taxes to South Carolina tax authorities. You’re not required to collect accommodations tax if you rent out a unit for less than 15 days during the taxable year, or if you rent out a unit with fewer than six bedrooms that you own and in which you live, provided that you don’t use a short-term rental marketplace for guest transactions.
Location is key to compliance
The location of your rental is a crucial piece of information for short-term rental tax compliance. Your address determines which tax jurisdictions you’re required to report to, which taxes you need to collect, and your tax rates.
Use our lodging tax lookup tool to get a tax report specific to your South Carolina address. The report includes the estimated total tax rate to collect from guests, number of required registrations, number and frequency of returns per year, and minimum number of rented days to qualify as a taxable stay.
It should be noted that tax rates and the rules governing them change frequently. Please consider your tax rate report to be informative rather than authoritative.
Registering with state tax authorities
Before you can begin collecting taxes on your short-term rental in South Carolina, you’re legally required to register with the South Carolina Department of Revenue. You can register online or by mail. Once you’ve registered, you’ll receive a retail license as well as instructions on filing your taxes.
If you provide short-term accommodations for less than one week in any calendar quarter, you don’t need to register with the South Carolina Department of Revenue, but you still need to collect and pay lodging tax. If you rent your property exclusively through a short-term rental marketplace such as Airbnb or Vrbo that reserves rooms and accepts payments for booking, you are not required to register with the state or collect short-term rental taxes.
Do I need to form an LLC?
In South Carolina, you don’t need to form an LLC to register with tax authorities.
Local short-term rental regulations
Short-term rental operators in South Carolina should be aware of the local regulations that apply to them, including rules covering:
- Permits, licenses, and registration
- Neighborhood notification
- Building and housing standards
Homeowner associations (HOAs), condominium communities, co-ops, and landlords may also have specific rules regarding vacation rentals. It’s your responsibility to be aware of short-term rental policies that apply to your property.
Collecting short-term rental tax
Once you’re registered with tax authorities, you’re ready to start collecting rental tax, which you’ll add to your guest’s bill when they pay for their stay.
Which taxes apply to South Carolina short-term rentals?
In South Carolina, short-term rentals are subject to state and local sales tax and accommodations tax and may be subject to other local taxes.
|Tax name||File and remit to|
|State sales tax||South Carolina Department of Revenue|
|State accommodations tax||South Carolina Department of Revenue|
|State-administered local tax||South Carolina Department of Revenue|
|Local tax||Local tax authority|
Before you can begin collecting short-term rental taxes, you need to know the correct rate to charge. Rates can and do change frequently, so it’s critical to make sure you have the latest rate to avoid over- or undercharging your guests and running into compliance issues.
Our lodging tax lookup tool can give you a rate report specific to your South Carolina address. The report includes the estimated total tax rate to collect from guests, required registrations, frequency of returns per year, and minimum number of rented days to qualify as a taxable stay.
What charges are taxable?
South Carolina imposes accommodations tax on the gross proceeds of short-term rentals. Additional guest charges, such as dry cleaning fees, are subject to sales tax, but not accommodations tax. Charges for amenities, entertainment, special items in promotional tourist packages, and other guest services, if optional and separately stated on the bill, are not subject to accommodations or sales tax. No-show fees are subject to accommodations tax, but cancellation fees are not.
What happens when my short-term rental marketplace (such as Airbnb or Vrbo) collects taxes for me?
Before collecting any short-term rental taxes from your guests, you need to be aware of whether any taxes have already been collected for you. If you rent your property exclusively through a short-term rental marketplace such as Airbnb or Vrbo, you are not required to register with the state or collect short-term rental taxes.
However, if you have an active retail license, you must file lodging tax returns for each filing period. For any filing periods when all of your rentals were through a marketplace, you’ll file a zero return. If taxes aren’t being collected for you, you’re responsible for collecting and remitting lodging taxes to tax authorities.
Are guests ever exempt from taxes?
There are situations in which you aren’t required to collect lodging taxes in South Carolina. For example, a guest who rents for a long term rather than a short term will be exempt from short-term lodging taxes.
Charges for accommodations directly paid for by the federal government, federal credit unions, charitable hospitals predominantly serving children, and the Red Cross may also be exempt from state sales taxes. Foreign diplomats may also be exempt.
Filing short-term rental tax returns
After you’ve collected taxes from your guests, it’s time to file your tax returns with the South Carolina Department of Revenue. In South Carolina, you can file paper or online returns. In order to file, you’ll need to enter information on how much you charged for your rentals. You’ll also need to pay the tax amount due. The South Carolina Department of Revenue allows credit card payments, but may charge a fee.
Take the time to double-check your returns prior to submitting. Simple mistakes such as typos, missing signatures, and incorrect tax information can lead to unwanted delays.
When do I need to file my returns?
You'll be assigned a filing frequency and due dates when you register with the tax authority. For filing with the South Carolina Department of Revenue, due dates are as follows:
|Filing frequency||Due date|
|Monthly||Due the 20th day of the month following the end of the filing period|
|Quarterly||Due the 20th day of the month following the end of the filing period|
|Annually||Due the 20th day of the month following the end of the filing period|
I didn’t rent my property during this filing period. Am I still required to file a tax return for my short-term rental with the South Carolina Department of Revenue?
Yes. Short-term rental operators registered with the South Carolina Department of Revenue are required to file returns each assigned filing period, regardless of whether there was any short-term rental income or any short-term rental taxes were collected. Such returns are commonly known as “zero dollar returns.” Local tax authorities may have their own requirements.
Are there penalties for filing taxes late?
Whether you choose to offer short-term rentals through a marketplace like Airbnb or Vrbo or directly to guests, you open the door to tax liability at the state and local level. As tax revenue is a major source of local funding, tax authorities are becoming more aggressive in their efforts to identify individuals and businesses not in compliance with tax laws. Failure to register with tax authorities and file short-term rental tax returns in South Carolina on time may result in late fees, interest payments, and in extreme cases, legal action.
I’ve been offering short-term rentals without collecting lodging tax. What options do I have?
If you’re already operating a short-term rental but you’re not collecting short-term rental taxes, you may be in violation of South Carolina tax laws. Take the time to review your legal responsibility (with a tax professional, if necessary) and understand the risk of continuing to not collect tax.
Short-term rental hosts in South Carolina may be able to take advantage of a voluntary disclosure agreement (VDA). A VDA offers an opportunity for hosts to proactively disclose prior period tax liabilities in accordance with a binding agreement with the South Carolina Department of Revenue. VDAs are offered to encourage cooperation with state tax laws and may result in some or all penalty and interest payments being waived.
Are there options for outsourcing lodging tax filing?
Yes. Numerous short-term rental hosts in South Carolina file several state and local lodging tax returns every year. For many, filing solutions such as MyLodgeTax can relieve this burden.