August 4, 2008

Tax-Free Weekend Creates a Run on Computers, School Supplies

By Jonathan Cribbs, The Beaufort Gazette, S.C.

Aug. 2--You could not see Best Buy's computers unless you saw Chris Dunston first.

He stood next to the "Tax-Free PC Table" laden with stacks of questionnaires and pamphlets Friday morning. He was in charge of a retractable belt barrier limiting the number of people who could look at the computers.

"We'll sell out this weekend," said Dunston, product process manager at the Beaufort store. "Let's just put it that way."

Since midnight Thursday, South Carolina stopped charging its six percent sales tax on clothing, school supplies, computers and dozens of other items. Local taxes, including Beaufort County's 1 percent sales tax for road projects, also aren't being charged through midnight Sunday.

While falling well short of Black Friday madness, shoppers across Beaufort took advantage of the savings, mostly to buy computers, clothing and school supplies. Brandy Hardin, 27, of Laurel Bay took her two children to Wal-Mart. Colored pencils, markers, glue and scissors among other items had been tossed into her cart.

"I hit it every year," she said of the tax holiday. "For a military family on a strict budget, (savings) can be anywhere between $10 or $100 if I have to buy school supplies."

Tonya Mays, 33, of Beaufort, a single mother, was searching Kmart for deals. She said she expects to spend about $200 for school uniforms and between $400 and $500 on everything else, including supplies for her four children.

"It'd be hard if they didn't have the tax-free (holiday) going on," she said. "It's important to me that my kids have what they need to go to school."

Teachers in need of extra school supplies also were taking advantage of the holiday. Marsha White, a first-grade teacher at Ridgeland Elementary School, stocked up on crayons, markers and scissors for her 18 students. She said she expects to spend about $200 on school supplies for which the school district likely will not reimburse her.

"I like having extra things," she said. The savings "is not a whole lot, but it does help."

Brenda O'Connor, a math teacher at A.C. Flora High School in Columbia, took time from a weekend visit to the beach to shop for school supplies. She navigated Wal-Mart with a cart carrying several cases of spiral notebooks. She also would likely not be reimbursed by her district, she said.

"I have no choice," she said.

South Carolina has been holding a sales tax holiday since 2000. Georgia and North Carolina also are having sales tax holidays this weekend.

State Revenue Department spokeswoman Adrienne Fairwell says the state typically loses just under $3 million in sales tax during the weekend.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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