COLUMBIA — South Carolinians could pay more while shopping online starting Oct. 1, just in time for the holiday shopping season.
That's tentatively when large, out-of-state online retailers will have to start collecting sales taxes from their South Carolina customers and move it to the state Revenue Department.
The agency's drafted guidelines, issued this week, come two months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled states can require the collections.
Small online-only sellers would still be exempt. The rules affect companies that sell more than $250,000 worth of items to South Carolina customers annually.
The Oct. 1 date applies to companies that have already hit that $250,000 threshold this year. Otherwise, sellers would have two months after hitting that sales tally to get a retail license from the state and start collecting.
The public has until Aug. 27 to weigh in on the proposed rules. If a hearing is requested, that will occur Aug. 29. Final guidelines will be issued a few days later, Revenue spokeswoman Bonnie Swingle said Wednesday.
Only a new law or court opinion would change them.
Legislators gave South Carolina’s tax-collection agency the authority to collect taxes from out-of-state sellers decades ago. But the agency couldn’t flex that power because of a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision that banned states from requiring businesses to collect sales taxes from customers in states where they have no “physical presence.”
Justices reversed that requirement, allowing South Carolina’s tax agency to enforce existing state law, said its director, Hartley Powell.
How many retailers will be affected is unknown, Swingle said.
Those that are included will be required to start adding 6 percent to 9 percent in sales taxes to customers’ tabs, depending on where the shoppers live in South Carolina. Most counties add at least one extra penny-on-the-dollar to sales. Sales taxes are highest in Charleston and Jasper counties, as well as the city of Myrtle Beach.
Also unclear is how much additional taxes will be paid.
It will likely be less than the $74.4 million estimate released earlier this month by the state Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office. That was based on companies being required to collect if they deliver more than $100,000 worth of goods or services to South Carolina customers — the threshold addressed by the high court's ruling.
The state's economists expect to update their estimate next week.
Most major online retailers already collect the tax, since they operate brick-and-mortar stores or distribution centers somewhere in South Carolina.
Under state law, South Carolinians who buy an item without paying sales taxes, whether they're shopping online or travel to a state without them, are supposed to send the Revenue Department a "use tax" of 6 percent of their purchase price. It's unclear how many actually do. The voluntary payments can either be sent in with a tax form after the purchase or, more commonly, claimed on annual income tax returns. In 2016-17, the agency received just over $2 million from people choosing to comply.