Car sales, gas tax and vehicle registration fee to go up in SC roads bill

Credit: CNN

There are some major roads improvement bills making their way through the state legislature.

We’ve told you one way they all would impact consumers, a higher gas tax (from between 8 to 12 cents a gallon, depending on which bill).

But there’s a lesser known proposed tax hike that will have another impact to your wallet: A car sales tax hike.

A growing number of opponents say it hits the poor and middle class the hardest.

“We all want the roads and bridges improved. I just don’t think it should be on the backs of the little people, the people who can least afford it,” said Darla Booher, President of Carolinas Independent Automobile Dealers Association.

She represents 3500 independent dealerships across South Carolina that are worried customers in the $10-12,000 range would get hit the hardest because they would pay the full 5% on an old car.

The house bill (3516) would raise the sales tax cap from $300 to 500.   The Senate version (bill 54) would raise it to $600.

“I’m buying a car that’s a 2004, when somebody that’s wealthy can go and get a 2017 and pay $600 in taxes, and I’m still going to pay $600 in taxes. I mean is that fair?,” said Aquiesa Cooley.

The low-income mother-of-six is worried about the next time she has to buy a car.

Lawmakers who support the bills argue they still protect consumers.

“Anything that is under $6000 currently that is in law now, which is the $300 cap that still stays the same,” said Rep. Gary Simrill from York.

“In the end going to the $600 cap is still nowhere close to where it could be if we didn’t have a cap on it at all,” said Senator Ross Turner from Greenville.

Still, dealers and buyers stress the sales tax is something people have to pay upfront. Lenders rarely wrap it into the finance package.

“As a single mom and a full time student, working 20 hours a week, bringing home $200 weekly. It would take me 6 months if I saved $50 a month for a $300 tag. If that’s increased to $600 that would take me an additional six months,” said Hannah Sims in Spartanburg County.

Booher has one suggestion.

“If they would change it from 5% to 3% it would change the math, and basically now, if you do a $10,000 vehicle times 3% it would stay at $300. And they could leave their caps the same $500 or $600. It would level the playing field for the people that can least afford it,” she said.

Senate Democrats also have proposed one other solution: Increase the sales tax cap on vehicles only on ones with a price of $30,000 or more to $500. The current sales tax cap of $300 would stay for vehicles under $30,000.

To contact your legislator and voice your opinion, click here. Studies show phone calls (and lots of them) are still the most effective method of getting your representative to address constituent concerns.

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