Tax-free weekend days away in S.C.: What shoppers need to know to save

Americans could spend record dollars on back-to-school shopping this year.
Published: Jul. 31, 2023 at 3:38 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 31, 2023 at 10:50 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Americans could spend record dollars on back-to-school shopping this year.

South Carolinians can save some money on their purchases soon with the state’s tax-free weekend coming up. It runs from Friday to Sunday and during that time, certain items are exempt from the state’s 6% sales tax and local sales taxes.

To make the most of it, experts say it pays to do your homework on back-to-school shopping.

“That’s a significant discount, and it can add up to a sizable savings, depending on what consumers are looking for,” University of South Carolina Research Economist Joey Von Nessen said.

Last year, shoppers bought more than $26 million in tax-exempt items during the state’s tax-free weekend, according to the South Carolina Department of Revenue.

In general, tax-exempt items are those like supplies used for school assignments, electronics, clothing and shoes, and bed and bath items, all new or used.

Items that are not exempt include rented clothing and shoes, items used in a business or trade, and items placed on layaway or deferred payment plans.

“If you can, only purchase what you need specifically for that moment because there’s a real possibility that if you don’t need it specifically for back-to-school, it’s going to be on sale again for Thanksgiving, Black Friday,” Michael Watson, who teaches in the University of South Carolina’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management, said.

Experts also caution, “Buyer beware.”

Some stores will raise their prices during this period to make up for discounts.

“Don’t get caught up in the, ‘I’m going to save money and buy a bunch of impulse items,’” Watson said. “Don’t do that, because you’ve just erased a bunch of your savings.”

The cost of school supplies has gone up nearly 25% in the last two years, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index states.

The outlook is mixed on how this could affect Americans’ spending this year.

“Inflation has had a significant effect over the last two years, and it has eroded purchasing power by raising prices, and consumers are feeling that when they go to the store,” Von Nessen said.

The National Retail Federation projects Americans will spend a record $41.5 billion on back-to-school shopping this year, averaging nearly $900 per household, while a survey from Deloitte predicts this spending could decrease for the first time in nearly a decade.

“I think it’s likely we’ll see more spending this year just because prices have gone up, so everything’s more expensive, and that’s going to lead to higher total sales volume,” Von Nessen said. “But at the same time, because things are more expensive, consumers are really going to be looking for a bargain in a way that they haven’t over the last two years.”

For South Carolinians who would rather avoid the crowds in stores and shop online, eligible items are still tax-free if purchased online as well.

The Department of Revenue has more information on tax-free weekend on its website.