Tax holiday repeal could have shoppers headed across SC line

Mary Katherine Murphy

July 24, 2014

LAURINBURG — In recent years, shoppers in Scotland County and throughout the state have looked to the first weekend in August as a chance to score school supplies, clothing, and other items while minimizing the blow to their bank account.

But the state’s annual tax-free weekend was cancelled, effective this year, by the state General Assembly as part of its 2013 tax overhaul. That move has some county residents exploring other shopping options in the month before school opens.

“It helped a lot because we usually get a whole pack of paper for the year and all of these notebooks just in case we run out,” said Scotland Early College High student Kiana Williams. “Me and my sister and my brother will be going to the same school, so we all need the same things.”

Some will head across state lines to stores in Bennettsville or Dillon, S.C., where a first of August tax-free weekend remains in effect.

“It will affect the people in this community; in this county, if North Carolina’s not going to do it, they will go outside,” said Richard Barbee. “Most of the time you’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do.”

The sales tax holiday applied to school supplies, computers, athletic equipment, and clothing and shoes under a specified price. In the tax holiday’s later years, it cost the state in excess of $13 million in lost sales tax revenue.

The Scotland County NAACP chapter will also take its business elsewhere when stocking up for its Back to School, Stay in School supply giveaway. The organization typically spends around $1,500 on school supplies for that occasion.

“That’s one event where we go shopping, and this year it is going to make a big difference since we do have to pay the tax,” said NAACP member Doretha Swann. “This year it’s going to be a little hard compared to the last few years.”

County Manager Kevin Patterson termed the weekend a “significant” one for sales, though the county lost its two percent portion of the 6.75 percent sales tax assessed on qualifying items, and the holiday did not appreciably boost sales of the big-ticket items to which tax still applied.

The loss of the holiday may discourage people from travelling to Moore or Cumberland counties for a major shopping expedition, Patterson said. He predicted that an almost certain decline in sales for the first weekend in August will not be reflected in the monthly total.

“You probably have some people who made an event out of it who wanted to get all their school supplies and clothes,” he said. “Now it’s less of a shopping day and that could actually help some of the stores here. They might pick up one or two items now and one or two items later that they’re much less likely to go out of town for.”

Not all took advantage of the tax holiday when it was available, as the adage that you have to have money to save it proves true.

“We’re broke every weekend,” joked Margaret Bullard. “For us it doesn’t make any difference; we don’t spend enough to bother with it.”

Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169. Follow her on Twitter @emkaylbg.