July 30, 2020 3 minutes to read ∙ 600 words

State Sales Tax Practices Prompt Tampon Tax Advocacy

By Julie Houth

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Reprinted with permission from TYL, Volume 24, Number 2, Winter 2020, at 17. ©2020 by the American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any or portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. Although this was a big step toward equality, the fight continues with the tampon tax movement. The tampon tax, also called the pink tax, is a catchy term for the sales tax most states impose on tampons, pads, and other menstrual products. These products are considered nonessential goods. In contrast, products considered a necessity, such as food and medicine, are exempt from state sales tax. Which products constitute a necessity varies across the states. In some states, you can purchase bingo supplies, cotton candy, erectile dysfunction pills, gun club memberships, and tattoos sales-tax-free because of necessity exemptions. Wondering why these items fall under necessity exemptions and menstrual products do not? You are not alone. In January 2016, President Barack Obama spoke out to support eliminating the tampon tax saying, “I have to tell you, I have no idea why states would tax these . . . I suspect it’s because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed.”

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