A typical textbook could cost you about $3 more if a proposal by South Carolina legislators can make it through the House and Senate.
That extra $3 can add up to the cost of two weeks of groceries – $54 – for the average $950 the University of South Carolina says students currently spend on average for a year's worth of textbooks.
Added expenses for students are hard to carry, said Carmen Cousin, a sport and entertainment management graduate student.
"Textbooks are something that we have to have, we have to use, and extra tax on that, I just don't see it being beneficial," Cousin said Thursday.
USC Student Body President Kenny Tracy said tax-exempt textbooks provide financial relief for students struggling to pay for school, and this bill would hurt those students.
"We will do all we can to protect students in accordance with the policy of the University of South Carolina," Tracy said.
Students haven't paid extra for textbooks in the state since 1951 when the sales tax was established and textbooks were one of the first 19 exemptions. South Carolina is one of 21 states that doesn't tax textbooks according to the National Association of College Stores.
Tacking on 5.5 percent to a textbook's cost might not seem like a lot, but it starts to add up, said Ken Halstead, manager of Addam's University Bookstore.
"If we've done without it for 60 years, why institute it now?" Halstead said.
Whether the bill makes it to the Senate before May 1 and has a chance of being passed is uncertain, and the House is on furlough until April 17.
Messages left seeking comments from legislative leaders went unreturned.
For years, critics have said South Carolina's tax system is unbalanced and that the sales tax has too many exemptions – now totaling 78, including a much-criticized $300 cap on car purchases.
The bill before the House Ways and Means Committee would eliminate 44 exemptions. Taxes in general have been a hot issue at the State House this year with Gov. Nikki Haley's corporate income tax cut, but will have to find money elsewhere to make up for it.
In addition, the state Supreme Court is considering a lawsuit that challenges all the exemptions as unconstitutional.
With the lottery already funding state scholarships and grants, Taylor Glazier, a visual communications major at USC, said he thinks the lottery should be paying for textbooks anyway.
"I can get a lot of lottery tickets for $50," Glazier said.
With more students buying books online, it's unclear whether they would have to pay the sales tax. For instance, students ordering from Amazon don't pay sales tax because the state exempted taxes in return for their company's location in Cayce. Instead, Amazon reminds South Carolinians to pay their usage taxes at the end of the year. However, a student who lives in New York where textbooks aren't taxed wouldn't file a South Carolina return.
"We advise the public to pay the taxes owed," Samantha Cheek, spokeswoman for the Revenue Department said.
Kathy Weathersby, manager of the South Carolina Bookstore on Main Street, expects unhappy students if they have to start paying taxes on their textbooks.
"I've worked in four other states where there is tax on textbooks and they don't like it, especially if they're used to not paying tax."