New SC laws go into ef­fect on New Year’s Day 2019

The Beaufort Gazette (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY AVERY G. WILKS aw­[email protected]­tate.com

If you took our ad­vice and saved your re­ceipts at the gas pump in 2018, con­grats!

For the first time, you can get a frac­tion of that money back when you file your 2018 state in­come taxes in 2019, thanks to a change in S.C. law that takes ef­fect with the new year.

If you didn’t, you al­ways can save your 2019 re­ceipts to file in 2020.

Be­cause the gas tax rises an­other 2 cents in July, you can save even more this time around if you take the right steps next year.

S.C. law­mak­ers passed nearly 300 new laws dur­ing the 201718 leg­isla­tive ses­sion, but not all of them took ef­fect im­me­di­ately. A hand­ful of those laws — in­clud­ing some in­volv­ing the 2017 gas tax hike — be­come ef­fec­tive on New Year’s Day.

Here is look at what the new laws mean for you:

GET A TAX CREDIT FOR GAS OR VE­HI­CLE MAIN­TE­NANCE

The new year is the first year you can sub­mit your re­ceipts for gas pur­chases and ve­hi­cle main­te­nance to claim a tax credit from the state.

For con­text: S.C. law­mak­ers passed a roads bill in 2017 that is rais­ing the state’s gas tax by 2 cents a gal­lon each July, through 2022.

How­ever, each year, you can get back some of what you paid in higher gas taxes, so long as

you keep your re­ceipts when you go to the pump or the car shop.

When you file your 2018 state in­come taxes this year, you can claim some of those ex­penses on a new fax form: I-385.

You will get a tax credit for what you paid in higher gas taxes or what you paid for main­te­nance — new tires or oil changes, for ex­am­ple — on up to two cars, trucks or mo­tor­cy­cles. How­ever, you only can claim the lower amount.

The gas tax hike, which even­tu­ally will climb to 12 cents a gal­lon, is be­ing phased in grad­u­ally, so you can save more in tax cred­its each year. The av­er­age driver might save only $15 for 2018, but the same driver could get as much as $55 in 2022.

The I-385 form will be­come avail­able in Jan­uary. And don’t go try­ing to claim a credit for gas or main­te­nance ser­vices you bought out­side of South Carolina. That won’t fly with the state De­part­ment of Rev­enue.

MORE CRIM­I­NAL RECORDS WILL BE ERASED

In the new year, South Carolini­ans who had mul­ti­ple mi­nor run-ins with the law also can get their crim­i­nal records erased for good.

Those ex­punged charges will not need to be dis­closed on job ap­pli­ca­tions, where some po­ten­tial em­ploy­ers might have con­sid­ered them dis­qual­i­fy­ing in the past.

At the prod­ding of the S.C. Cham­ber of Com­merce, law­mak­ers passed the new law in June in an ef­fort to grow the state’s pool of work­ers el­i­gi­ble for a job.

Ef­fec­tive Jan. 1, more South Carolini­ans will be able to erase of­fi­cial records of ju­ve­nile of­fenses, first of­fenses and mi­nor drug charges.

S.C. res­i­dents al­ready could have their crim­i­nal records erased for mi­nor first-of­fense con­vic­tions. How­ever, the new law al­lows those with mul­ti­ple of­fenses to have their records ex­punged if the crimes were “closely con- nected.”

The bill also gives le­gal cover to busi­nesses who hire ap­pli­cants with ex­punged crim­i­nal records. It en­sures no in­for­ma­tion re­lated to an ex­punge­ment can be used as ev­i­dence in a law­suit ac­cus­ing the busi­ness of neg­li­gence for hir­ing an em­ployee whose past mis­deeds have been deleted.

Gov. Henry McMaster ve­toed the bill, say­ing em­ploy­ers should be aware of ap­pli­cants’ crim­i­nal his­to­ries and de­cide for them­selves whether to over­look past trans­gres­sions.

But the GOP-con­trolled Leg­is­la­ture over­whelm­ingly over­rode the Repub­li­can’s veto.

A per­son’s record must be clean for at least three to five years — de­pend­ing on the crime — be­fore he or she can ap­ply to have past charges ex­punged.

HOME­OWN­ERS ASSO­CIATIONS MUST BE­COME MORE TRANS­PAR­ENT

In May, S.C. law­mak­ers passed stricter rules on home­own­ers asso­ciations, aim­ing to give cur­rent mem­bers of the groups more ac­cess to in­forma- tion and prospec­tive home­own­ers a bet­ter idea of what they’re sign­ing up for when they move into a sub­di­vi­sion.

The 2018 S.C. Home­own­ers As­so­ci­a­tion Act re­quires the groups to write and record their gov­ern­ing doc­u­ments, in­clud­ing by­laws, rules and reg­u­la­tions by Jan. 10, 2019.

With the new law, the doc­u­ments now must be made avail­able pub­licly and filed with the county.

Home­own­ers asso­ciations that are not in­cor­po­rated as non­prof­its also will have to give a 48-hour no­tice to mem­bers be­fore they de­cide to in­crease their bud­gets.

And, un­der the new law, any­one who sells a piece of prop­erty must tell the buyer whether the home or land is part of a home­own­ers as­so­ci­a­tion.

The new law also au­tho­rizes the S.C. De­part­ment of Con­sumer Af­fairs to doc­u­ment com­plaints about spe­cific home­own­ers asso­ciations and pass them along each year to the Gen­eral As­sem­bly.

But law­mak­ers didn’t give Con­sumer Af­fairs any au­thor­ity to in­ves­ti­gate the com­plaints or act on them.

LOW-IN­COME, WORK­ING FAM­I­LIES CAN SAVE HUN­DREDS

Thou­sands of work­ing, low-in­come S.C. tax­pay­ers will see their state in­come tax bill shrink af­ter law­mak­ers passed a new earned-in­come credit along with the state’s gas-tax hike in 2017.

The tax credit went into ef­fect Jan. 1, 2018, and con­tin­ues to be phased in grad­u­ally, with an­other step on New Year’s Day 2019. About 150,000 tax­pay­ers will get a tax credit worth $285, on av­er­age, by 2023.

The tax credit could shrink what some tax­pay­ers owe the state to zero. How­ever, be­cause the credit is non-re­fund­able, it won’t re­sult in the state writ­ing you a check for any credit left over.

Also, work­ing-class fam­i­lies will get a big­ger boost from the state’s up­ward ad­just­ment of its tax cred­its for fam­i­lies with at least two work­ers, thanks to the gas-tax hike.

Tax­able earn­ings for that credit, once capped at $30,000 a year, are in­creas­ing $3,333 a year to $50,000 by 2013. That process be­gan last year.

The max­i­mum tax cred- it for those fam­i­lies grad­u­ally will rise to $350 in 2023 from $210 in 2017.

S.C. IN­SUR­ERS MUST PRO­TECT THEIR CUS­TOMERS FROM HACKS

In April, South Carolina be­came the first state to pass the In­sur­ance Data Se­cu­rity Act, a new law es­tab­lish­ing data-se­cu­rity stan­dards for in­sur­ance com­pa­nies and rules for in­ves­ti­gat­ing cy­ber­se­cu­rity at­tacks.

The law was the re­sult of re­cent at­tacks that have ex­posed the records of tens of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans, in­clud­ing the 2015 hack of in­sur­ance giant An­them. The bill re­quires all S.C. in­sur­ers to es­tab­lish an in­for­ma­tion­se­cu­rity pro­gram by July 2019.

MAN­U­FAC­TUR­ERS GET A TAX BREAK

The prop­erty tax on man­u­fac­tur­ers grad­u­ally is drop­ping to 9 per­cent from 10.5 per­cent. That process be­gan in 2018 and will be phased in over six years.

JA­SON LEE [email protected]­sun­news.com

A cus­tomer pumps fuel at a Shell sta­tion in Myr­tle Beach. In 2019, South Carolina res­i­dents can sub­mit re­ceipts for gas pur­chases and ve­hi­cle main­te­nance to claim a tax credit from the state.

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