A Brief History of the South Carolina Accommodations Tax Bill
A bill creating a tax on transient lodgings facilities in South Carolina was originally introduced by state Representative Jean Meyers in the mid-seventies. The monies were basically to go to the state's general fund and some towards reduction of property taxes. The state's hotel industry successfully fought the bill as a discriminatory tax for several years. When Ms. Meyers left the legislature, Representative Harriet Keyserling picked up the effort and added a section which used the monies for arts related activities.
The bill was gaining support each year and in 1981, after studying what other states had done, representatives of the hospitality industry including Angus Cotton, John Curry, John David Rose and Ashby Ward held several meetings with Representative Keyserling to craft a bill that would provide a guaranteed amount for tourism promotion as well as funds for appropriate arts activities.
At that time only 16 of South Carolina's 46 counties had significant tourism activity. The remaining 30 counties fought the legislation claiming that there citizens would suffer by having to pay the tax when visiting the popular coastal areas. To get their support, the "Robin Hood" amendment was added which required that the rich tourism areas give some funds to those not otherwise benefiting from the tax.
The bill that passed in 1983 gave the first $25,000 to the general fund of the county or municipality where it was collected. 25% of the balance was to go to a non-profit organization with a track record of tourism promotion for marketing. An advisory committee was required for every county and municipality that collected in excess of $50,000 annually and the special rules established for "high tourism impact" areas which let the remaining funds be spent, in part, for general services above what would normally be required if there was not significant tourism impact.
The bill was later modified giving counties/municipalities 5% in addition to the $25,000 and the designated marketing agency an additional 5% for a total of 30%. There have been minor modifications over time and there is still a need for some clarification on many issues but the tax has served us well.