Let’s Talk about the Tampon Tax

Canada recently became the first country to eliminate the so-called “tampon tax.” Since then, similar movements to axe the tampon tax have started to gain momentum in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

Since more lawmakers and activists in the United States are starting to talk about the tampon tax, now is a good time to look at this much-debated tax in a little more detail.

Tampon Tax 101

For starters, the tampon tax isn’t a special tax on tampons and other feminine hygiene products. It’s the sales tax that states charge on all “tangible personal property,” including feminine hygiene products in most states.

This might not seem like a problem. After all, all “tangible personal property” is taxed, so why shouldn’t states tax tampons? The flaw with this logic is that states exempt certain “necessities” from sales tax. Groceries, medical purchases (like prescriptions and prosthetic limbs), agricultural supplies, and sometimes even clothes are considered tax-exempt necessities.

Women have a period every month for decades and they need feminine hygiene products every month. Did you notice the word “need” in that sentence? That very word suggests that feminine hygiene products are a necessity. However, right now only Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania (major props to these states) have decided that tampons and related products are necessities and should not be taxed.

Another interesting wrinkle to the tampon tax is what certain states exempt from taxes, while still taxing tampons. For example, Connecticutand North Dakota don’t tax pads for bladder dysfunction. These two states are willing to say that pads used for incontinence are a necessity (which they are), but they aren’t willing to make the leap to say the same about pads used for menstruation.

Fighting the Tampon Tax around the World

The United States isn’t the only country scrutinizing the tampon tax. This summer, after thousands of citizens signed an online petition, Canada gained the distinction of being the first country to lift the tampon tax.

At the same time, women in Australia were busy protesting the tampon tax by petitioning, picketing, and dressing up as giant tampons and dancing on the lawn of Parliament to Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood.” Women in the United Kingdom also found creative ways to protest the tampon tax.

Want to help fight the tampon tax? Keep in mind that sales tax in the United States varies from state to state. So, in order to eliminate the tampon tax in this country, all 50 states would need to remove the tax on tampons and related products. This means that there needs to be pressure on lawmakers at the state level to change the way state tax codes treat feminine hygiene products. Signing this petition is an excellent place to start.

March 6, 2016

Claire

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Claire Coder is the founder and CEO of Aunt Flow. Now 19, the young entrepreneur spends her very limited free time dancing spastically, geeking out over podcasts, and dreaming of being on The Ellen Show. Claire loves chatting about religion, higher education, and left-handers, so shoot her an email on the contact page.