Here we go again! It’s time for the annual South Carolina Sales Tax Holiday, just in time for back-to-school shopping – which, we’ve come to understand, is the primary reason for the event.
During this special period of three days, Aug. 5-7, you won’t have to pay the state’s 6% sales tax when you purchase any items on the official S.C. Department of Revenue “exempt” list. This means you can get a break on the cost when you buy essentials that your students will need to go back to school in style – not just clothes and socks, but ski boots, choir robes, and formal wear! Exciting, isn’t it?
And just a bit kooky, if you ask me.
It has been a while since I shopped for school supplies, but I don’t recall that my kids ever needed a tuxedo or ski boots for school. We aren’t exactly in the snow belt.
If skiing isn’t your child’s thing, you can also get the tax break on hunting attire, hiking boots, and swimwear and leotards.
While some of the list seems odd, it’s just as weird to consider related items that are not on the exempt list. Though you can buy diapers, you can’t get a break on a stroller or car seat. You can get a shower curtain tax free, but not the rod or rings to hang it. (And these are the only curtains you can get; dorm window treatments are not exempt.)
I understand why suits and dresses are exempt, but wedding gowns and veils? Yes, they are on the list! What message are we sending to our kids?
The supplies list for elementary schools generally includes pencils, pens, erasers, binders, folders, flash drives, calculators and glue – all of which are on the exempt list. But other simple things that teachers desperately seek, like boxes of tissues and hand sanitizers, are on the taxable list.
For the college dorm room, you might want the tax-free bedding, pillows and a mattress pad, but you’ll have to pay the sales tax on a new mattress and box springs. While towels and washcloths are on the exempt list, toilet paper is not.
You can also buy costumes, but not makeup. Graduation caps and gowns are tax free, along with bibs and aprons.
Even on the list of expected items, there are oddities. For instance, you can buy a computer tax free, but not a separate keyboard or mouse. Printers are exempt, but scanners are not. I wonder how they treat an “all-in-one” print/scan/copy/fax machine.
All sorts of shoes are exempt – from sneakers to cleats, from orthopedic shoes to golf shoes – but shoelaces are not.
You can get school, work and scout uniforms, but not eyeglasses, hard hats or life jackets. Purses are exempt, but don’t try to buy a wallet to go with.
This “sale” has been going on since 2000. It’s not just for school items, obviously – and not just for kids. Anyone, any age can buy things on the list with no sales tax added. Items can be purchased in person or online.
Retailers don’t have the option to charge sales tax on the exempt items – they must honor the list.
I discovered that it’s not just our state that holds these sales tax-free events – 17 other states have them, mostly for back-to-school items, and some for various other reasons.
In Florida, there’s a Freedom Week (held over the July 4 weekend) during which one could purchase all sorts of outdoor and boating supplies (under $25), coolers, kayaks and other fun stuff.
Now, those are items we could definitely use here in the Lowcountry. Wedding gowns for school kids, not so much.