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The back-to-school lists are longer than ever. School supplies are big business -- and at no time is the business bigger than this weekend during South Carolina’s Tax Free Weekend.

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Clothes, computers and school supplies are among dozens of items that can be purchased free of sales tax Friday through Sunday, according to the S.C. Department of Revenue.

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During Tax Free Weekend, shoppers can purchase a variety of back-to-school essentials without paying the state's 6% sales tax and applicable local taxes.

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At a time of marked change in patterns brought on by online shopping, the sales tax holiday is important, particularly for small businesses locally.

Ben Homeyer, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, states: “The sales tax holiday applies to Main Street as well as the mall. Our hope is that people will use this opportunity to support their communities by shopping small.”

The tax holiday comes at a time when small-business optimism has declined, Homeyer said. The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index dipped 1.7 points last month to 103.3. Overall, although small business optimism remains near historic levels, sales expectations and profits declined in June as uncertainty increased to levels not seen in more than two years.

“When you combine the sales tax holiday with the usual back-to-school deals, you really put people in the mood to shop, whether they’re shopping for their kids or grandkids or shopping for themselves,” Homeyer said.

“Small businesses have deals and merchandise and service that you won’t at the national chains,” Homeyer said. “Plus, when you shop small, you're supporting your friends and neighbors. You’re supporting the businesses that support local charities and youth sports and keep our communities strong and economically healthy.”

To understand how important the tax holiday is for retailers, consider that the tax-free weekend has become the third-busiest shopping period of the year, surpassed only by the weekends after Thanksgiving and before Christmas.

Parents will go back-to-school shopping regardless, but the tax holiday attracts cash-strapped shoppers who have delayed purchases.

And even if you don’t need school clothes, you can save money shopping during the sales-tax holiday. And you can find some great deals.

South Carolina shoppers typically save approximately $2-3 million over the course of Tax Free Weekend. While larger markets such as Columbia and Charleston will get their share of the business, it is vital for the prospects of growth in Orangeburg and The T&D Region that local people help businesses here can thrive.

It makes sense to spend money locally, where the economic growth promoted by the dollars will directly benefit quality of life. The boost in sales this weekend is important for retailers and the savings are welcomed by shoppers.

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