Tampon tax is a term used for the tax imposed on menstrual hygiene products by a government. These products are not subject to a unique or special tax in these jurisdictions but classified as luxury items along with other goods that are not exempted.
Critics of this tax argue that such menstrual hygiene products are necessities, and taxing them is unconstitutional and a form of discrimination. Further, they say exempting these goods by categorizing them as medical equipment or supplies would greatly benefit low-income groups.
Tampon tax is often viewed as a part of the unofficial, and biased "pink tax," which according to studies makes products meant for those who menstruate costlier than similar ones meant for those who do not.
Where Are Tampons Taxed?
As of November 2019, 34 state governments in the U.S. levy sales tax on menstrual hygiene products, such as pads and tampons.
Kenya was the first country to abolish a tampon tax in 2004. Other countries that don't tax these goods as luxury items include Australia, Uganda, Canada, India, Nicaragua, Malaysia and Lebanon. The U.K. tax rate will go to zero as of Jan. 1, 2021.
Revenue or Repeal
The primary argument in support of tampon tax is revenue collection. The California government estimates removing taxes on feminine hygiene products would cost the state about $20 million a year, which was why California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a tampon tax relief bill that passed both houses of the state legislature in 2016.
In New York State, where the tax is no longer imposed, the loss in revenue was estimated to be $14 million a year, according to a lawsuit filed in 2016. The Tax Foundation's Nicole Kaeding argued that removing taxes on these products puts other items at risk of higher rates and different products can be regarded as necessities by different groups.
However, those against it say it is a tax on those who menstruate and budgets shouldn't be "balanced on women's backs," as California State Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia put it. A University of Richmond study also found that while the tax break is fully shifted to consumers, it is not distributed equally.
"Low-income consumers enjoy a benefit from the repeal of the tax by more than the size of the repealed tax. For high-income consumers, the tax break is shared equally with producers. The results suggest that repealing tampon taxes removes an unequal tax burden and could make menstrual hygiene products more accessible for low-income consumers," said the paper published in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies in 2018.
Oct. 19, 2019, was the first National Period Day in the U.S. with 60 rallies all over the country calling for the elimination of the "archaic" and "unfair" sales tax on menstrual products. It was launched by a non-profit organization called Period, U.S. politicians, including Kamala Harris, Julian Castro, Beto O'Rourke, and Cory Booker used the hashtag #NationalPeriodDay online to express their support for menstrual equity.
A bill introduced to Congress in March 2019 by Rep. Grace Meng called the Menstrual Equity For All Act of 2019 aims to make these products more accessible to all people who menstruate.