Cindi Ross Scoppe

SC sales tax exemptions: from airplanes to zoo animals

Among the more than 110 items exempt from the SC sales tax are groceries, private planes (after a $500 fee), zoo animals and portable toilets.
Among the more than 110 items exempt from the SC sales tax are groceries, private planes (after a $500 fee), zoo animals and portable toilets.

Listed below are the state’s sales tax exemptions, along with the official estimate of their values from the Board of Economic Advisors. Most estimates are from 2008, although the gasoline tax estimate was updated in 2009.

The state Revenue Department has updated its estimates on the cost of a little less than half of these exemptions since then. You can find those numbers here. But I’m using the 2008 estimates for consistency, so you can see the relative size of the exemptions.

Exemptions that have been ruled unconstitutional or discontinued (such as the gun-tax holiday) and about a dozen exemptions whose value the BEA puts at zero have been omitted.


Publications and on-line access used in schools: $21.5 million.

Livestock used as beasts of burden or to provide food, pelts or fur: $58.9 million.

Feed for poultry and livestock: $16.3 million.

Insecticides, chemicals, soil conditioners, seeds or nursery stock used in farming: $15.9 million.

Containers and labels used for preparing agricultural products for sale: $600,000.

Cindi Ross Scoppe


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Newsprint: $5 million.

Newspapers: $7 million.

Department of Agriculture’s “Market Bulletin”: $10,800.

Religious publications: No estimate provided.

Fuel sold to manufacturers, power companies and transportation companies: $102.9 million.

School meals and food for the elderly, disabled or needy: $7 million.

Water sold by public utilities: $27.3 million.

Vessel bunkering: $1.5 million.

Wrapping paper, twine, bags and containers for sale and delivery of products: $25 million.

Motor fuel for highway use: $557.4 million. (A 16.75-cent-per-gallon excise tax raises $516.2 million per year. Many states levy both an excise and a sales tax.)

Motor fuel for off-highway use: $29 million.

Fuel for farm machinery and tractors: $4.4 million.

Fuel for commercial fishing vessels: $12.7 million.

Motor fuel for construction: $9.9 million.

Motor fuel for military use: $2 million.

Farm machinery: $7.3 million.

Machines used in manufacturing, processing, recycling, compounding, mining or quarrying: $63 million.

Fuel to cure agriculture products: $750,000.

Electricity for cotton gins, manufacturers, miners or quarries: $87.6 million.

Railroad cars, engines and parts: $353,000.

Vessels and barges more than 50 tons burden: $170,000.

Farm, grove, vineyard and garden products sold by producer: $412,000.


Medicine and prosthetic devices: $568.5 million.

Diabetic supplies: $15.5 million.

Disposable medical supplies for patients outside of hospital or skilled nursing facilities: $143,000.

Prescriptions donated to S.C. medical schools: $44,000.

Dental prosthetics: $1.1 million.


Vacation time shares: $5.3 million.

Gas and electricity used in the production of poultry, livestock, swine and milk: $1.3 million.

Electricity or other fuels for residential use: $188.2 million.


Half the gross proceeds of modular home sales: $1.9 million.


Motion picture film sold or rented to or by theaters: $2.8 million.

Petroleum asphalt products used in paving, for use outside the state: $614,000.


Tangible personal property sold to the federal government: $253 million.

Airplanes ($300 cap): $1.2 million.

Motor Vehicles ($300 cap): $152.9 million.

Motorcycles ($300 cap): $2.3 million.

Boats ($300 cap): $5 million.

Semitrailers and horse trailers ($300 cap): $826,000.

Recreational Vehicles ($300 cap): $7.9 million.

Manufactured Homes ($300 plus a 1 percent tax on amounts above $6,000): $26.6 million.

Note: The $300 sales tax cap was increased to $500 in 2017.

Exemption from the 1 percent EIA sales tax for people 85 and older: $5.5 million.

Self-propelled light construction equipment with a maximum of 160 net engine horsepower ($300 cap): $2.9 million.


Vehicles purchased by out-of-state military personnel stationed in South Carolina: $2.2 million.

Hearing aids: $2.1 million.

Musical instruments or office equipment purchased by religious organizations ($300 cap): $87,000.


Long-distance phone service: $45.8 million.

Telegraph messages: negligible.

Phone access charges: $22.9 million.

Automatic teller machine transaction fees: $5 million.

Supplies and equipment bought by laundries, dry cleaners and carpet cleaners: $3.3 million.

Concession sales at festivals by public or charitable organizations: $475,000.


Containers and chassis sold to international shipping lines in contract with State Ports Authority: $550,000.


Sales by nonprofits: $6.7 million.

Depreciable assets of a business that is sold by the owner: $125,000.


Missile assembly materials used by U.S. armed forces: classified.

Plants and animals sold to public zoos or gardens: $4,000.


Supplies and electricity sold to motion picture companies: $42,000.

Electricity to irrigate crops: $53,000.

Building materials and equipment for commercial housing of poultry or livestock: $63,000.

War memorials or monuments on public property: $50,000.


Supplies, equipment and electricity sold to TV and radio stations: $9.2 million.


Tangible personal property sold to children’s charitable hospitals: $50,000.

Trash bags that are specifically required by local governments: $39,000.

Postage paid by people who sell advertising services for clients: $825,000.


Recycling property: $2.8 million.


Material handling systems and equipment used in distribution facilities: $1.4 million.

Parts and supplies for repairing aircraft owned or leased by commercial carriers: $562,000.

Motor vehicle extended-service contracts and warranties: $1.2 million.


Clothing for working in a Class 100 or better clean-room environment: $40,000.


Audiovisual masters: $60,000.

Machines used in research and development: $2.6 million.

August school sales tax holiday: $2.9 million.

Cooperative direct-mail promotional advertising materials sent to S.C. residents by chambers of commerce or convention and visitor bureaus: $800,000.


Lottery tickets: $47.6 million.


Copy fees for bills and legislative documents: $5,000.


Seventy percent of gross rental sales and leases for portable toilets: $333,000.


Prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines and supplies sold to charitable clinics: $230,000.

Sweet-grass baskets made by S.C. artists: $30,000.

Respiratory syncytial virus medicines: $2.1 million.


Construction materials for a single manufacturing or distribution facility with a capital investment of at least $100 million in real and personal property at a single site: $14.2 million.

Property sold to the public through a sheriff’s sale: $332,000.

Viscosupplementation therapies: $397,000.


Gold, silver or platinum bullion, legal tender coins and currency: $83,000.

Building materials for a building or any equipment located in a research district: $1.2 million.

Amusement park rides and equipment: $3.9 million.

Durable medical equipment purchased with Medicaid: $2.4 million.

Groceries: $354 million.


Sales tax holiday on energy-efficient products for home or personal use: $1.2 million.

Note: The following exemptions have been added since the state last provided estimates for all exemptions, in 2008. None of them is included in the Revenue Department’s updated (partial) list of costs.


Several existing exemptions were amended so that Boeing could take advantage of them.


Machinery and equipment for insurance testing facilities.


Computer and electricity used in datacenters.

Injectable medications and biologics.


Children’s clothing purchased by charitable organizations.

Construction materials purchased by charitable organizations.


Equipment for firefighting vehicles: $870,000.

Purchases made by museums: $51,000.

Retailer discount for paying sales tax on time: $22.1 million.

Ms. Scoppe writes editorials and columns for The State. Reach her at or (803) 771-8571 or follow her on Twitter or like her on Facebook @CindiScoppe.