3 ways to work South Carolina’s tax-free weekend to your advantage

Tips to stay safe and sane during Tax-Free Weekend

Local retailers and law enforcement share tips to stay safe and sane during the upcoming Tax-Free Weekend from August 5-7 in South Carolina.
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Local retailers and law enforcement share tips to stay safe and sane during the upcoming Tax-Free Weekend from August 5-7 in South Carolina.

For parents with kids going back to school, college students searching for a new computer or people simply making a big purchase, tax-free weekend can be a great thing.

On the plus side, there’s the tax savings, additional coupons and the thrill of just shopping. But tax-free bargain hunters must also deal with crowds, traffic and maybe even waiting in line to buy items that, as it turns out, aren’t tax free.

From 12:01 a.m. Friday to midnight Sunday, South Carolina shoppers will be able to purchase select items without having to pay the sales tax. Whether you shop during the tax-free weekend out of necessity or for the fun of bargain-hunting, here are three tips to help you make it to Monday.

Expect crowds and traffic

On Black Friday, you know to expect early-rising shoppers snaked around store buildings in long lines. You know they might even end up on the news in a stampede toward that deal. While you won’t likely experience that same level of frenzy on tax-free weekend, you should know that it is guaranteed to be busy.

Ashley Doepp, the general manager of the Hilton Head Island Tanger Outlets, said this is the second-biggest shopping weekend of the year for the outlets. To accommodate the increase in shoppers, she said Tanger Outlets would be open an extra hour on Friday and Saturday.

Desiree Peluso, the general manager at Best Buy in Beaufort, has seen 13 tax-free weekends at the store. She said she expects higher traffic and that all employees would be working.

“It’s definitely an all-hands-on-deck weekend,” she said.

If retailers are preparing for crowds, you should be too. It’s best to plan your schedule accordingly and muster all the patience you can.

Know what’s tax free and what’s exempt

“Tax-free weekend” might sound like a free-for-all, but not all purchases are covered under the law.

Doepp said a piece of advice she’d give customers is to do their research.

“Luckily for us, we offer over 90 brands that are exempt from the sales tax this weekend,” she said, referring to the fact that most of the stores at Tanger sell clothing.

According to a press release published by the South Carolina Department of Revenue, items such as book bags, clothing, school supplies, shoes, printers, computers and bed linens will be tax-free this weekend. Purchases like makeup, sunglasses, furniture and jewelry will not be.

If that sounds confusing, consider this: Peluso said that if a customer were to buy a printer and ink cartridges, the customer wouldn’t pay taxes on either item because the printer is listed as tax-free and the ink cartridges are a complementary purchase. However, if the shopper were to buy only ink cartridges, he would have to pay the sales tax on them.

Before you hit the stores, make sure you bring a shopping list and ask a sales associate what’s covered under the tax-free umbrella. No one wants to wait in line only to be told their purchase won’t be exempt.

Look for coupons and additional savings

Nothing is better than savings — except more savings.

Doepp said tax-free weekend is worth shopping because customers not only save on South Carolina’s sales tax, but many stores offer additional discounts throughout the weekend.

“In my experience, almost every store/brand (in Tanger Outlets) takes advantage of tax-free weekend,” she said. “There’s kind of this triplefold of savings going on this weekend, which is why I think it’s worthwhile for people to venture out and shop.”

Peluso said Best Buy also had additional savings options for customers. For instance, she said, students could sign up on the Best Buy website and save an additional $150 on a computer.

“(South Carolina doesn’t) have a cap on the amount you can spend, so it’s better,” she said.

The Board of Economic Advisers reported to the S.C. Department of Revenue that shoppers were estimated to save about $2.25 million statewide over the weekend.

If you want to add to that number, start looking for those additional deals and coupons.

Madison Hogan: 843-706-8137, @MadisonHogan