“Tampon tax” isn’t a phrase you’ll hear from an accountant, but the term has become a sore subject for women who find it unfair that feminine hygiene products don’t get the tax-exempt status that other essential healthcare purchases do. Because April 15th is fast approaching and money might be on your mind, we thought we’d take a look at the tampon tax and how it can impact your bottom line.
A bit of background: Most items that are considered to be life necessities, such as groceries, are granted a tax-exempt status. So by charging sales tax on tampons and other feminine hygiene products the government is saying that they are not an essential part of your life, and that you don’t really need them. Menstrual products also aren’t classified as a medical expense, so if you have pre-tax money in a health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA), you can’t spend it on items you need during your period.
Why Are Tampons Not Exempt From Sales Tax?
Under the tax laws in most states, tampons and other feminine hygiene products are currently classified as luxury items instead of necessities or medical devices. Since luxury items are not “needed,” sales tax is imposed. Those who are for the tax want the revenue it generates and think it is not a big deal for women since they only will menstruate for part of the month, half of their lifetime. Though for many women who are struggling financially, this added expense really adds up over 30 to 40 years of monthly periods.
Why Are Some States Trying to Get Rid of It?
Those in the government and the general public who are pushing to get the tax repealed feel that the financial burden is unnecessary, but are even more outraged that the tax seems to be discriminatory against women. With many states removing the tax from some items such as condoms, lubricant, and even Viagra, citizens of many states find that the tax seems to be discriminatory due to the fact that it specifically targets products that women need while protecting common male personal products.
Currently, all but eleven of the states that have a state-wide sales tax put this tax on your tampons, sanitary napkins, and other menstrual devices. But some states have decided that the classification of feminine hygiene products as a luxury is absurd since menstruation isn’t a choice but a biological function that naturally occurs. These state governments have classified these products as medical necessities, which would put them into the same category as groceries and other essential items which don’t have sales tax added at the register. The eleven states that have declared menstrual products tax exempt: Nevada, New York, Ohio, Florida, Minnesota, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
What Are Advocates Doing to Get This Tax Eliminated?
Luckily there are many advocates on your side pushing for the elimination of the Tampon Tax. Recently California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia took up the fight in her state, referring to the tax as a gender injustice. She proposed legislation that would remove the sales tax from the products in the state of California. Unfortunately, her Assembly Bill 1561 failed and the tax remains in one of the most populous states in the nation. Bloomberg News reports on efforts in the House of Representatives (headed up by a female member of congress, unsurprisingly) to make it possible to pay for menstrual products using pre-tax FSA or HSA dollars.
Even though the elimination of the tax has met with some roadblocks, it has succeeded in many states and many other countries. Advocates not only discuss the fact that the tax can be seen as discriminatory, but also the fact that it can place an undue financial burden on women who are already on the wrong end of the wage gap.
What You Can Do About the Tampon Tax
If you live in a state that taxes you for your monthly menstrual needs, you might consider switching to a menstrual cup. Yes, you’ll pay tax on that too, but one cup can last for ten years. You could also pay less tampon tax by trying out one of the birth control pill options that eliminates the placebo pills from the pack to provide a continuous cessation of your menstrual cycle. There are also brands such as Camrese Lo and Seasonique which are designed to only give you a short period for a few days every three months, which is great for cost, convenience, and for mitigating painful or heavy periods.
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