Women across the country are encouraging policymakers to change or include legislation to remove the “tampon tax,” the sales tax imposed on feminine hygiene products (e.g., tampons and sanitary napkins).
Currently, only five states – Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and New Jersey—have laws against taxing sanitary products. Five other states (New Hampshire, Oregon, Montana, Alaska and Delaware) don’t have a sales tax at all, but the large majority don’t consider tampons a “necessity”.
In these 40 states and the District of Columbia, tampon taxes range from 2.9 to 7.5%, according to NPR and the Tax Foundation.
The United States allows states to decide what to tax and how much to tax. Some states do not have a sales tax, while others tax at both the state and local level. A state’s sales tax includes “tangible personal property” but typically make exceptions for select “necessities” (non-luxury items).
These “necessities” vary from state to state, but may include groceries, food stamp purchases, medical purchases (e.g., prescriptions, prosthetics), clothes (in some states), and agriculture supplies.
Most states do not specify exemptions for tampons and sanitary napkins, so they are seen by these states as “luxury items”. But as all women know, feminine hygiene products are not a luxury item; they are essential.
Currently, lawmakers in New York, Connecticut, Wisconsin, California, Ohio, and Chicago are considering changing their laws. For example, in New York, a group of five women are suing the New York State Department of Taxation over the state’s 4% tax on feminine hygiene products.
Women pay roughly $14 million per year in New York State taxes on tampons and pads.
In the lawsuit, the women argue, “[The] Department imposes a double standard when defining medical items for women and men. Medical products exclusively for women are taxed. Medical products also used by men are not.”
These non-taxed medical products include Rogaine, foot powder, dandruff shampoo, chapstick, facial wash, and adult diapers. Why aren’t tampons included? The plaintiffs argue, “Tampons and sanitary pads are far more necessary to the preservation of health than Rogaine, dandruff shampoo, or many other products the Department considers medically exempt.”
There seems to be support for removing the New York State tampon tax, as a bill seeking to do just that has been introduced in the state assembly.
It seems that this year, the movement to get rid of the tampon tax across the country is gaining momentum, as state lawmakers continue to propose legislation in their states. Even President Obama said, in a YouTube interview in January, that there is no reason this tax exists. Perhaps 2016 may be the year that all 50 states will axe the tampon tax and join Canada as the second country to eliminate the tax completely.
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