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Is the “Tampon Tax” a Burden on Women?

5 Minute Read
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Have you ever thought about how much you pay for feminine hygiene products like tampons and sanitary pads? And have you ever thought about how much less you would pay over your lifetime if you did not have to pay the sales tax on those items?

The high monthly cost of periods and fibroids

Some people are thinking about these very issues and finding that it might just be unfair to charge sales tax on products women have to use every month. Women spend about $7 every month on feminine hygiene products, and more if they live in one of the states where sales tax is levied on those purchases.

For women suffering from symptoms of fibroids, these costs can be even greater. Uterine fibroids afflict up to three-quarters of women under the age of 50 and many have the accompanying symptom of heavy menstrual bleeding. In fact, up to half of fibroid sufferers need medical treatment to bring their bleeding under control.

For these women, heavy bleeding requires extreme measures simply to manage month to month. Not only can this be emotionally and physically taxing, it can also expensive and literally taxing:

  • “With fibroids, my period is extremely heavy and I was spending a fortune on pads, tampons, going through boxes of it. I had to go to Costco to get the really big boxes to make it a little cheaper.“ – Luann
  • “I once bled for one month straight and became anemic.  Feminine pads are an extra line item in our family’s budget. That’s how many I use each month.” – Tania

The Tampon Tax challenged

Called the tampon tax, sales taxes on tampons and sanitary pads are being challenged in some areas as adding an undue burden on women who have to buy these products. The sales tax is a tax that is levied on many items considered “tangible personal property,” not just on feminine hygiene products. The exact rate depends on the state, with the highest rates appearing in Louisiana (9.98%), Tennessee (9.46%), Arkansas (9.30%), Alabama (9.01%), and Washington (8.92%).

However, the sales tax does not apply to all products. Some items (such as groceries or prescription drugs) are classified as necessities, and are exempt from the sales tax by states.  As a result, the exact items that are subject to the sales tax depend on the state and what it classifies as necessities. Unfortunately, only a few states (such as Maryland and Massachusetts) place feminine hygiene products in the tax-exempt category.

Recently some people have been arguing that feminine hygiene products are indeed a necessity. About half of all women are of reproductive age, and the vast majority of them have a period every month.As a result, they need to buy feminine hygiene products. As a result, some argue that feminine hygiene products are a necessity, and that the tax creates a gender inequality.

Arguments for and against the Tampon Tax

One voice against making feminine hygiene products (and any items for that matter) tax exempt is the Tax Foundation, America’s leading independent tax policy nonprofit. According to this foundation, all products, including feminine hygiene products, need to be subject to the sales tax, whether or not they are a necessity.

The reasoning? The Tax Foundation argues that doing so will keep the sales tax as low as possible. When certain items (such as feminine hygiene products) are made exempt from the state sales tax, other items must be taxed at a higher rate to make up the difference. This is exactly what is happening in California, where making feminine hygiene products tax exempt is resulting in a higher tax on hard alcohol.

However, it might be acceptable to charge higher taxes on items that are a choice in order to reduce the burden on people (such as women) who must have the tax exempt items. “Liquor is a choice and a luxury, and human biology is not,” California State Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia said in a statement earlier this year. “There is no happy hour for menstruation. Our tax code needs to reflect the fact that it’s not ok to tax women for being born women.”

Tampon Taxes add up

The sales tax on $7 a month might seem negligible. Are people arguing over what would amount to insignificant savings? Not according to the New York state government. According to their estimates, women would save about $10 million every year if feminine hygiene products were exempted from sales taxes.

Of course, this means $10 million less in state revenue that critics argue is only part of a trend toward reducing the number of items eligible for sales tax and, therefore, leading to even greater drops in state revenue over time.

The argument is likely to go on for a while. However, what is also likely to continue is women’s need to use (and pay for) feminine hygiene products every month and pay “the tampon tax”, an expense that (especially when taxed), forces them to spend money simply because they are women.

Viva Eve may be able to reduce your tampon spending

The doctors at Viva Eve have years of experience in the treatment of uterine fibroids and adenomyosis with the minimally-invasive uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) procedure. At VIVA EVE we provide high-quality, personalized care. We’ll partner with you to determine the best way to treat your heavy menstrual bleeding or other problematic symptoms.

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