It’s Time to Axe the Tampon Tax

shutterstock_230432302Each month for a good chunk of her life, a woman will pay out wads and wads of cash to deal with her period. Buying pads, tampons, menstrual cups—whatever products you choose—is pretty much a nonnegotiable for menstruating women. On top of the baseline fees, however, most countries around the world, including the U.S., charge what’s been called a “Tampon Tax” on these items, meaning women—who typically earn less than men—are paying extra for necessities.

Here’s the gist: In the U.S., state governments collect taxes on “non-essential” goods and services (think: stationery, electronics and art supplies, for example). They don’t collect taxes on essential items like food. Menstrual products fall into that first, non-essential category in most states, so even though the U.N. says the ability to exercise menstrual hygiene is a human right, half the population is paying out hard-earned money to the government that men will never have to spend. What’s more, a larger number of states exempt items such as candy and soda from sales taxes, but still tax menstrual products.

The cost of menstrual products is limiting for many women as it is, but adding a tax on top of that seems downright unjust when you consider the limited means of low-income and poor women. In the latest issue of Ms., we report on the circumstances of many homeless women who must endure a stressful search for menstrual products every month. Finding the money they need for these products is hard enough—the added tax may mean the difference between having a meal and not having one.

Women around the world have begun to speak out against the Tampon Tax. In California, two women, Rachel and Helen Lee, launched a Change.org petition calling on Gov. Jerry Brown (D) to “Axe the Pink Tax.” In their petition, they write,

[Women] can testify that these products are so indispensable to them because they prevent great health risks, keep conditions sanitary, and allow a woman to perform day-to-day tasks without being burdened … women are also more likely to live under the poverty line. For every dollar that a man earns, a woman working the same job makes 78 cents. Basic necessities become harder to afford, especially with this tax in place. Half of the population should not be financially penalized for their needs.

The outcry is beginning to have an impact. In May, Canada announced it would end the federal Tampon Tax beginning July 1 (the country levies a nationwide goods and services tax as well as provincial sales taxes). As local newspaper the Toronto Sun reported, “[In 2014], Canadian women spent about $519,976,963 on tampons, pads and menstrual cups, which put more than $36,398,387 into government coffers, according to Statistics Canada.” The province of Quebec quickly followed the federal government’s lead, announcing that it too would stop taxing menstrual products. Four other provinces already exempt feminine hygiene products from provincial sales taxes.

While you wait for U.S. states to do what’s right and axe the tax on women’s hygienic necessities, enjoy this video from two British comedians who took on the Tampon Tax, Taylor Swift-style.

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steph

Stephanie Hallett is research editor at Ms. Follow her on Twitter @stephhallett

Comments

  1. This makes a lot of sense. Menstrual hygiene products should clearly not be taxed.

  2. valerie robbins says:

    How do we change this?

  3. Let’s also stop tax on condoms that MEN buy because they too ‘prevent great health risks’, for both men and women.

    • I absolutely agree that feminine hygiene products AND condoms should be exempt from tax. Both are essential to helping maintain health. But let’s be honest, if they remove the tax, they’re just going to find another way to tax us to make up for the lost $$.

    • So WOMEN never buy condoms?

      • Never, in my limited experience. That is neither here nor there, however. That tax should be dropped as well, along with the tax on jockstraps, another oppressively sexist tariff if ever there was one!

    • That’s perfectly fine with me. I agree, there shouldn’t be a condom tax. If fact, let’s don’t pay any taxes at all. Wouldn’t hurt my feelings a bit. No siree. But all jokes aside, pads and tampons are necessities. Nobody wants us to be walking around without them.

    • Noneyabidness says:

      When sex is something you can’t control and have no say on its impact on your life or timing, and no plethora of options on how to manage it while holding down a job and a life outside of your non-negotiable requirement to have sex constantly for 3-5 days at a time, come back and we’ll talk. Until then, go have a seat. The grownups have work to do.

    • Condoms were actually completely free at Planned Parenthood. Other forms of contraception were low- to no-cost, depending on your income. *The more you know*

  4. MK Anderson says:

    I love this article! I just wish the language was gender neutral – there are folx who menstruate who are not women.

  5. I’m ok with not using tampons or paying ludicrous money for them.. I’m also ok wig leaving a blood trail where ever i go. So long as people understand that it is perfectly natural!! I’m extremely considerate and would always try to make sure that it is cleaned up!!! Like the way men make sure they haven’t pissed on the toilet seat or floor!!

  6. The author is calling this a “tampon tax.” I’m curious if they’re saying that tampons are taxed more so than any other hygenic product. Is the author simply referring to normal sales tax? If so, then the case should be made for other hygenic products such as toilet paper, wipes, soap, and toothbrushes; which are equally as essential as tampons. I’m not doubting the necessity of tampons. I’m just questioning the language of the article. Questioning whether women have truly been victimized by what seems to be the norm for both males and females: having to pay sales tax on necessary hygenic goods.

  7. Some information is incorrect. Some states do tax food (groceries), some states don’t tax feminine necessities. The article should be corrected with accurate sources.

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