With apologies to my brother and his family who no doubt voted for some of the representatives in the South Carolina legislature, the state should be embarrassed for its constant attempts to make the state fit someone’s view of morality.

Just a few short days after South Carolina passed a law to give married couples a whopping $24 out of the state coffers in an effort to promote marriage (which makes you wonder about the good folks of South Carolina if $24 is all that it takes), Sen. Mike Fair (R – Greenville) added a 20% tax to porn magazines. The tax, on such magazines as Playboy and Hustler, is expected to generate an additional $385,000, money which the state will use to help the Department of Probation, Pardon and Parole manage sex offenders.

It is so very clear, no? There must be a clear tie between reading porn magazines and sex offenders – mothers everywhere, take note. Your teenage boys are apparently at risk.

What else is South Carolina trying to make more expensive? Why, those other sinful behaviors: drinking and smoking. A proposal to raise fees on alcohol sales failed after Sen. Fair argued it would break rules that limit tax increases and law changes in the budget – I’m not sure why this didn’t apply to his porn tax. However, a 50% per pack cigarette tax increase did pass Committee.

So there you go. If you’re planning on drinking, smoking, looking at porn or – heaven forbid – remaining single, take note: South Carolina is gunning for you. Get your wallet ready!

(And here’s my disclaimer: I’m a southern girl myself. I grew up in North Carolina. Many of my relatives on both sides (Mom and Dad) hail from South Carolina. I don’t hate the state. I just question whether the folks there have lost their minds…)

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Kelly Erb is a tax attorney, tax writer and podcaster.


  1. The cigarette tax is a little surprising.

    The projected tax revenue from the magazines seems hardly worth it – although I suspect that the internet affects (will affect) sales more that the tax will.

  2. What was said about South Carolina back in 1860 is still true: “South Carolina is too small to be a country, and to large to be an insane asylum.”

  3. I think we should have a telethon to help South Carolina I mean if they are in need of 350K of revenue that they need to pass a sin tax, which will in all likelyhood be challenged and found unconstitutional, they should simply just ask the public for help. Oh wait they are asking the public because this tax will simply be added to the magazine cost. Oh well…

    I wonder how much money it will take to administer this new tax and if passed will these costs outweigh the revenue.

  4. Instead of mocking any suggestion of a link between pornography and sexual predators, try conducting a bit of research to form an educated opinion. You might be surprised to learn that the overwhelming majority of sex offenders got their start with this material. So there could quite possibly be the link.

    In regard to the cigarette tax, South Carolina has the lowest tobacco tax in the nation and some of the highest rates of tobacco use among teens. Conducting a bit of research on the planned use of the tax would show that it would go to pay for insurance for the working poor and their families in South Carolina.

  5. Maddy,

    I thought that the revenue was surprisingly low, too, considering the hullaballoo.

    You make a good point re internet sales.

  6. Mory,
    I do agree re the cost to administer the tax re the anticipated revenue… I can’t imagine that the state will do much more than break even. This is kind of my point – it’s clearly just intended to “punish” immoral behavior. Bah.

  7. Ever since moving to South Carolina, I’ve been in a state of constant shock. I keep wondering if anyone here lives up to their own moral standards. How does taxing a magazine curb porn use in the youth of South Carolina? Have people in SC not caught up to the computer age yet? Do kids even read magazines nowadays? Cigarettes.. ok, why not? I get that. Love the marriage money. Sounds like just enough to go out and buy a pack a cigarettes and few porn mags.

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