STATEMENT OF THE CASE
This matter is a contested case brought by Danny W. Parker ("Petitioner" or "Taxpayer")
against the Chester County Auditor ("Auditor") concerning the payment of property taxes on a 1995
S-10 Chevrolet pickup truck for the tax year 1997 and the appeals process before the Chester County
Auditor. The parties have exhausted their prehearing remedies and jurisdiction is granted to the
Administrative Law Judge Division ("ALJD") by S. C. Code Ann. 12-60-2540 (Supp. 1996).
A contested case hearing was held at the offices of the Administrative Law Judge Division
at the Edgar A. Brown Building, 1205 Pendleton Street, Columbia, South Carolina on September
9, 1997, after notice to the parties.
I find that the assessment of personal property taxes against the taxpayer's 1995 Chevrolet
S-10 pickup truck is proper and lawful and that the Auditor's office handled this case in a proper
FINDINGS OF FACT
Having carefully considered the credibility of the testimony and accuracy of the evidence
presented at the hearing and taking into consideration the burden of persuasion by the parties, I make
the following Findings of Fact by a preponderance of the evidence:
1. This Division has personal and subject matter jurisdiction.
2. Notice of the date, time, place and nature of the hearing was timely given to all
3. Taxpayer is a resident of Chester County.
4. Taxpayer owns a 1995 Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck. He purchased the truck from
Burns Nissan, Inc. of Rock Hill, South Carolina on February 21, 1997. The sales price paid for the
truck was $8,999.00.
5. The vehicle was assessed by Chester County at 790 or a property value of $7,523.00.
See letter of Edward M. Thomas, Chester County Auditor, dated April 21, 1997.
6. Taxpayer owns another vehicle, an F-350 Ford truck, on which he pays property taxes
to Chester County. He utilizes this truck on his twelve acre farm. He has paid the property taxes
due on this truck.
7. The 1997 "Vehicle Assessment Guide" for Chevrolet trucks, as provided by the
Department of Revenue to the county for assessment purposes, lists an assessment value of 790 for
Model S 14, Fleetside S-10 pickups for the year 1995. This guide was utilized by Chester County
in assessing Taxpayer's Chevrolet pickup truck.
8. The property tax assessed by Chester County onTaxpayer's pickup truck is $227.89
9. Taxpayer requested a conference with the Auditor and met with him. Unsatisfied
with the result of that conference, Taxpayer requested from the Auditor the proper procedure to
appeal the Auditor's denial of relief.
10. The Auditor provided Taxpayer the form to file a protest. The protest was filed with
the Auditor and was denied.
11. Taxpayer was notified of his right to appeal the decision of the Auditor to the
Administrative Law Judge Division and have a contested case hearing on the matter.
12. By letter dated June 26, 1997 and received by the Division on June 27, 1997,
Taxpayer requested a contested case hearing.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW AND DISCUSSION
Based upon the foregoing Findings of Fact, I conclude, as a matter of law, the following:
1. S. C. Code Ann. § 1-23-600 (Supp. 1996) grants jurisdiction to the Administrative
Law Judge Division to hear contested cases under the Administrative Procudures Act.
2. Pursuant to S. C. Code Ann. § 12-39-340 (1976), the county auditor is responsible
for ascertaining that all personal property subject to ad valorem taxation by the Constitution or
general law is listed and assessed according to manuals, guidelines and rules and regulations
promulgated by the Commission (now the Department of Revenue).
3. S. C. Code Ann. § 12-39-350 (Supp. 1996) provides that the county auditor shall
adopt valuations of the county assessor and the Commission.
4. S. C. Code Regs. 17-119 and 17-19.1 (1976) provides "Assessment Guides for
Personal Property" which the county auditor is required to follow and use in assessing personal
5. Effective August 1, 1995, the South Carolina Revenue Procedures Act established
the procedure for personal property tax assessment protests, appeals and refunds where the county
auditor has assigned the value. S. C. Code Ann. §§ 12-60-2910 through 12-60-2940 (Supp. 1996).
6. S. C. Code Ann. § 12-37-210 (1976) defines property which is taxable in South
Carolina as follows:
All real and personal property in this State, personal property of residents of this
State which may be kept or used temporarily out of the State, with the intention of
bringing it into the State, or which has been sent out of the State for sale and not yet
sold, and all moneys, credits and investments in bonds, stocks, joint-stock companies
or otherwise of persons resident in this State shall be subject to taxation.
7. Pursuant to S. C. Code Ann. §§ 5-37-710, -890 and -900 (1976), residents of this
State are required annually to list for taxation all tangible personal property which they own, or
which is in their control or possession on December 31st preceding the relevant tax year. Such
personal property shall be taxed at the place where the owner resides at the time of listing.
8. Taxpayer asserts that there is not a proper appeals process in Chester County which
allows for a fair and impartial hearing. S. C. Code Ann. § 12-60-2920 (Supp. 1996) provides that
a taxpayer may request a contested case hearing with the Administrative Law Judge Division if he
is aggrieved by the decision of the county auditor. Although Taxpayer is not provided by statute a
hearing before a local board, he is provided an impartial and fair hearing before an administrative
law judge where he can present any relevant testimony and evidence. Taxpayer has not offered any
evidence that the valuation placed by the Auditor on his Chevrolet truck is excessive nor is he
making such an argument. His only argument is that it is unlawful for the Auditor to assess and tax
the truck. He has been provided a proper forum to argue his legal position.
9. Taxpayer also asserts that it is discriminatory to have to pay personal property taxes
on this Chevrolet pickup truck since he has already paid personal property taxes on the Ford truck
he owns. Simply put, Taxpayer argues that it is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the
State and Federal Constitutions for him to pay a personal property tax when other county residents,
not required to pay the tax, benefit from the services provided by the tax receipts.
Our Supreme Court has consistently held that the Equal Protection Clause does not require
equal distribution of tax revenue. The South Carolina Constitution grants state and lcoal
governments the power to assess and collect property tax. S. C. Const. Art. X, §§ 1 and 6. The plain
language of those sections imposes uniformity on property tax levies, but does not impose uniformity
on the distribution of taxes. Westvaco Corp. vs. Dep't of Revenue, ___ S.C. ___, 467 S.E.2d 739,
741 (1995). "There are many cases, both State and Federal, which hold that taxes, otherwise lawful,
are not invalidated by reason of the fact that the resulting benefits are unequally shared." Atkinson
Dredging Co. v. Thomas, 266 S.C. 361, 367-368, 223 S.E.2d 592, 595 (1976).
Taxpayer contends that the use of his tax monies to benefit those who do not have such tax
burdens is unfair. The power to tax derives from the state constitution, and the General Assembly
promulgates legislation and rules to tax the property of residents equally. It does not provide for
In Davis v. County of Greenville, 313 S.C. 459, 443 S.E.2d 383 (1994), the court faced an
analogous situation to this case. Taxpayers challenged the county's taxing of all residents uniformly
while providing certain services only to the unincorporated areas of the county. The taxpayers
argued that distributing those services, such as road and bridge maintenance and law enforcement,
to only the unincorporated areas violated the Equal Protection Clause because the distribution of
those services did not benefit the county residents in municipalities. The court stated that:
Taxes are levied on all property...for the maintenance of government in the county.
Although some services are not rendered in [some] areas, these services are still
provided for the maintenance of county government and, therefore, benefit all the
residents of the county. The equal protection clause does not require that
mathematical symmetry be attained between benefits received and payment for those
Id. at 465, 443 S.E.2d at 386.
Applying the principle of Davis to this case, the distribution of tax monies collected from
Taxpayer and redistributed to benefit others who have paid no such tax does not violate the Equal
Protection Clause. No equalization between monies paid and benefits received is necessary. Indeed,
one of the central purposes of government is to provide for the welfare of all its constituents,
regardless of economic contribution. The government provides a balancing effect in society with
the redistribution of wealth through taxes and fees and services and benefits.
9. Following South Carolina case law, regulations and the plain language of the South
Carolina Constitution, Taxpayer has not shown to this court the existence of any violation of the
Equal Protection Clause nor that he was denied procedural due process in voicing his legal positions.
Accordingly, it is the conclusion of this court that Taxpayer's contentions are without merit and that
the Auditor properly and lawfully assessed the taxes in question.
Based upon the foregoing Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Discussion, it is hereby:
ORDERED that the case filed by Taxpayer is dismissed.
AND IT IS SO ORDERED.
Marvin F. Kittrell
December 2, 1997
Columbia, South Carolina.