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Public officials must disclose income sources

Starting next month, public officials will be required to disclose information about their income.

Officials must file their Statement of Economic Interests online covering the previous calendar year (January – December) by noon on March 30. Newly elected officials must also electronically file their SEI before being sworn in. 

The General Assembly made changes to the ethics laws during the 2016 legislative session. As a result, officials filing on or after January 1, 2017 must include the source and type of income the filer received. Income collected by the filer's immediate family during the past year must also be disclosed. Immediate family refers to the filer's spouse, any children in the household, and anyone claimed as a dependent on the filer's taxes for the previous year.

When determining whether something received in the last year qualifies as income, the filer should ask the following question: "Is it a thing of value reported or disclosed on an Internal Revenue Service form as income received?" If so, then the source and type of income should be disclosed on the SEI. 

This new requirement does not require a public official to provide the amount or value of income received in the previous year, only the type (i.e. wages, tips, stock, etc.) and where it came from.

Some sources are exempt from this new disclosure requirement. They include: deferred compensation as well as retirement, annuity, pension, IRA, disability income, and income received from a court order.

Officials may also exclude any savings, checking or brokerage accounts, as long they have not received special interest rates or other special terms as a result of their status as a public official, member or employee, as defined in Section 8-13-100(25)-(27) of the SC Code of Laws.

The Statement of Economic Interests must be filed electronically. The necessary forms are available from the South Carolina Ethics Commission.

Who is a 'public official?'
Among those affected include: anyone appointed to fill the unexpired term of a state or local elected official; candidates for state and local public office; the chief administrative official of each political subdivision, including water and sewer districts; city administrators, managers, supervisors or chief administrative official, by whatever title; chief finance and chief purchasing official of each agency, institution, or facility of state government, and of each county, municipality, or other political subdivision.