Auditor visits schools to flag out of state tags in Dorchester County

(John Gaddy/WCIV)

By Natalie

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - J.J. Messervy wore a neon vest covered in visitation stickers at each school he's been to this year.

Ft. Dorchester Elementary was the 22nd and final school in Dorchester's school district that he visited on Wednesday.

The Dorchester County auditor has been on a mission to hunt down out of state vehicle tags.

Wednesday he stood with his out of state tag supervisor Ashley Hanna where they wrote down the tags on the cars as parents dropped off their children for school. But Messervy says it's not a witch hunt, but an educational campaign.

"We're still kind of in an amnesty period where we're just trying to let people know what their responsibilities are and how they need to come in compliance with South Carolina law," he said.

South Carolina law states you have 45 days to register your vehicle in the state after you've become a permanent resident.

"Everyone who is dropping off a kid is a resident, typically, unless they're here for some other purpose," Messervy said.

Not everyone they've listed in their binder with out of state tags are violators. According to Messervy, active military whose permanent residence is listed in another state are exempt.

Messervy says they've collected nearly $10,000 through this program at the schools.

"To help bear the burden of the services, especially last year, Dorchester County collected nearly $14.5 million in vehicle taxes. Of that, $9.5 million went to schools," he said.

Nearly 66 percent of every dollar collected goes to the school district, according to Messervy. The auditor says most people are simply not aware of the rules and the importance of the tax.

After taking down tag numbers, the auditor's office matches the tags to a county address and then sends a letter. If the letter goes unanswered, a second letter is sent, then a third, certified. Messervy says they provide plenty of friendly reminders, but says ignoring the auditor's office is against the law.

"If they don't respond, a sheriff's deputy will serve them with papers to show up in court," he said.

Those looking to register their vehicle should go to the Auditor's Office located at 500 North Main Street in Summerville, where they will generate a bill. That bill needs to be taken to the Treasurer's Office, located at the same address. They provide a tax receipt which must be taken to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

The taxes vary based on the location of residency and value of the vehicle. Messervy also encourages the public to report out of state tags. They can be reported anonymously online at and clicking on the icon at the bottom left of the site or by calling the Auditor's Office at (843) 832-0118.