What's Up With the Tampon Tax?

What's Up With the Tampon Tax?

If I’m being entirely honest, I was not hip to the fact that my tampons were being taxed until an NPR article covering the breadth of issues involving menstruation was forwarded to me by a friend.

I found myself Googling item after item, falling down a veritable rabbit hole of issues I’d ignored in the past. The London Marathoner! #PeriodsAreNotAnInsult! Diva cups? Ultimately, I discovered that tampons and pads are considered non-essential items (unlike food or medicine), and are therefore taxed at the state sales rate.

While my first thought was ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ , my second was wait, WHAT? In needing to find out more, here’s what I read:

  • An early proponent of getting the word out was this useful graphic published by Fusion, which highlighted the states that were still taxing tampons and pads. Notice that it’s an overwhelming majority. The article was prompted by the fact that Canada had just abolished the tax nationally and highlighted very vividly how much work America would have to put in, in order to do something similar, as each state is in charge of its own sales tax (and exceptions to it).
  • The first state to start the new year and propose a new bill to rectify the absurdity was California. Sponsored (shocker) by two assemblywomen, the legislation prompted similar bills in other states such as Connecticut, Michigan, New York and Wisconsin.
  • President Obama found out about the ‘luxury goods’ status while on camera, and was as confused and shocked as I was. “I suspect it’s because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed,” he noted.
  • Just last month, New York City has made history by going one step further and creating legislation that will allow for easy access of feminine sanitary products in public schools, shelters and prisons.

Frankly, the overall cost to an individual over a lifetime can be considered negligible to some. But the fact of the matter is that in taxing an item considered crucial to a women’s basic biology, lawmakers are penalizing women for being women. And despite my initial ignorance, I am thrilled that people are fighting past the taboo nature of the subject to do something about it. Next up? The Pink Tax.

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