Charleston retailers were recently advised by the South Carolina Dept. of Revenue that the sales tax rate will rise from 8.5% to 9.0% effective May 1, 2017. That elevates Charleston to the sixth highest sales tax rate in the country, tied with Los Angeles. Chicago has the highest sales tax rate in the country at 10.25%.
Charleston County voters approved a 0.5% sales tax increase on the Nov. 8 general election ballot for transportation projects. The $2.1 Billion measure included $650 Million for bus transportation and $200 Million for unspecified “green space” projects. The South Carolina sales tax rate is 6%. Charleston, North Charleston and Mt. Pleasant levy 1% local option sales taxes. Charleston County residents are assessed a 1% sales tax for school construction and another 1% sales tax for transportation.
The median household income in Charleston County is approximately $52,000 per year, about $1000 below the national average. Sales taxes are generally considered “regressive” in that they have a larger impact on low-income residents. Charleston County also has a 2% sales tax on prepared food in grocery stores, fast food outlets, and restaurants. That means that a cup of coffee at a restaurant will be taxed at an 11% rate in Charleston starting on May 1.