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72 hours of tax savings in SC: Experts say how you shop determines how much you save

University student
Element5 Digital

Friday starts South Carolina’s 72-hour Tax Free Weekend for back-to-school items. According to the state Department of Revenue, in 2022, shoppers bought more than $26.2 million in tax-free items.  

During the weekend, also known as the sales tax holiday, a variety of purchases are exempt from the state's 6% sales tax and any applicable local taxes; including clothing, accessories, shoes, school supplies, backpacks, and computers.  

Experts say inflation may drive more shoppers to take advantage of this year’s tax holiday. Dr. Michael Watson, with the University of South Carolina’s College of Hospitality, Retail, and Sport Management, adds staying focused on needed items can help shoppers stay on budget.  

“Anytime we do any type of concentrated retailing effort, like a tax-free weekend, it’s impacting all shoppers at all levels,” Watson said.  

He said consumers should pay attention to the specific items they need, in this short amount of time, that is particular to their experience at their school and to not veer away from those purchases, because that’s where “you’re going to get the benefit of those tax-free savings.”  

Dr. Michael Watson spoke with South Carolina Public Radio about the two consumer groups he believes benefits the most during the annual tax-free holiday.  

Tax Free Weekend in SC
Listen: USC's Dr. Michael Watson on who benefits from Tax Free Weekend

"One is the people with the most disposable income ... because they have the most flexibility and can take advantage of any of the larger cost items, and so they're going to see the bigger, you know, dollar cost savings in terms of value," Watson said.

"If you are very specific and intentional about how you purchase, and you have a few children that you're having to buy school supplies for, then this can be a benefit to you because maybe those items are not as available earlier because you don't know what the school list was that the students needed and it's not something that you can wait on to purchase later."

"Oftentimes, you will see it from a political standpoint where it's pushed forward as a real benefit to all low-income consumers," he adds. "The research really doesn't support that because most low-income consumers are also the ones that are disproportionately impacted by inflation and food prices going up, and they don't have flexibility in terms of their disposable income. So the benefits are reduced quite a bit for them."

Thelisha Eaddy is the local Morning Edition host for South Carolina Public Radio.