It's such a shame that women continuously fight for equality, one problem at a time. It seems as if the bigger picture of a woman's livelihood is constantly disregarded. From being underpaid in the workplace and overworked domestically, it has taken decades for powerful women to reach their voices this far.
Although many changes have been made in support of gender equality over the years, politics has been a leech on the progress of women's rights. It's hard to say if there has been an actual significant righteous change for women as much as sympathetic inclusivity.
Women are still paid around 20% less than men, contributing to over 10.9 trillion dollars in unpaid labor, according to this 2020 analysis report on gender inequality.
It's hard to believe that in the year 2022, decisions about women's hygiene are still up for debate by some lawmakers. When the topic of women's hygiene is brought up, the last word you should want to hear is tax. Yet, the existence of 'the period tax' & 'the pink tax' are two important movements that show how women are undervalued as people and more valued as a commodity.
These particular issues affect so many households in the U.S. The neglect from legislators who are unaffected by these matters holds the power to help so many lives—lives that should be considered with sympathy for their natural qualities.
What is 'The Period Tax'?
The period tax, also known as the tampon tax, is a sales tax charged on tampons and other feminine hygiene products. In contrast, other products–considered basic necessities, are granted tax exemption status. The term tampon tax isn't exactly an official name, but it has brought all the attention needed to this issue.
In many states, period products are taxed as luxury items and not recognized as basic necessities—I know…gasp! Period products are taxed at a similar rate to items like decor, toys, and electronics. We all know that period products aren't extravagant treats, nor are they purchased in small doses. Generally, it could take 40+ hygienic products to get through a monthly menstruation cycle. Not only is taxation an additional burden on people who menstruate, but discrimination against them by making items crucial for everyday life unaffordable for some.
Why does the tampon tax exist?
There is a series of products that are exempt that seem ridiculous in comparison to women's health–cooking wine in California, gun club memberships in Wisconsin, to marshmallows in Florida. Evidently, erectile dysfunction is a medical issue, and its treatment is considered a drug along with birth control and medicated condoms–which are also all tax-exempt in several states.
While many of those medicinal products are important to a large group of people, they are, however, preventative solutions to intimately personal issues. It's incomparable to hygienic care that affects the nature of one-half of our species.
"Women's health has been misunderstood and neglected throughout history," Rep. Melissa Sargent, a politician from Madison, WI, told NPR news. "Some women are ashamed of their period," she said, adding that she feels the reluctance to talk about it has prevented the issue from gaining more momentum in state legislatures.
Periods are just as natural as any human bodily function and are beyond an individual's control. Pads, tampons, and other period products are no different from our need for toilet paper. The only difference is–there are men who don't need one over the other; it's simple in their perception.
For some U.S. states, exempting menstrual products from being taxed results in reduced public revenue collection. For instance, cutting taxes on both diapers and tampons in California is estimated to eliminate about $55 million in revenue per year. In New York state, eliminating the tampon tax is estimated to account for a $14 million reduction in revenue annually. When states eliminate the tampon tax, they have to make up for the loss by increasing tax rates on other items.
Women have fought their way into legislation, but it's times like this that it seems things are still being run by men's verdicts. The period tax exists because it's a two-way issue–it causes problems for the people and the state, but a problem like this (much like many other women's rights issues) should be humanized.
What is Being Done About The Period Tax in the U.S.?
As of January 2023, 22 states continue to charge sales tax on period products. Over the past 40 years, more than half the country has brought attention and change to this issue.
Period product tax achievements and current work:
Minnesota – In 1981, Minnesota became the first state to end the tampon tax, exempting all health products from state sales tax.
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania has not taxed period products since 1991. They fall under 'paper goods' in the state tax code and are not taxed similarly to toilet paper, diapers, and other material basic necessities.
New Jersey – Long-term economic studies from New Jersey have shown that the tax break in 2005 had a tremendously positive effect.
Massachusetts – Massachusetts's Surgeon General reclassified period products as medical devices, making them tax-free.
New York – Assembly member Linda Rosenthal, the bill's sponsor, said, "Women statewide will no longer be burdened by a lingering tax that was levied at a time when women were not part of government and the decision-making process."
Illinois – In August 2016, Illinois joined in and axed the tampon tax.
Florida – In May 2017, a law was signed and passed by Florida Governor Rick Scott, making period products, including pads, tampons, and menstrual cups, tax-exempt.
Connecticut – Connecticut followed and ended the tampon tax in June 2017.
Maryland – On April 10, 2018, Maryland also ended the tampon tax with SB0081.
Nevada – Nevada exempted period products from tax on November 6, 2018.
California – Assembly members Cristina Garcia and Lorena Gonzalez worked for years to get period products tax-free in California. In June 2019, California didn't include a tax on period products in its two-year budget. Two years later, California passed the bill to make period products tax-exempt permanently.
Rhode Island – Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee signed a tax bill that included ending the tax on period products in July 2019.
Ohio – Representative Niraj Antani sponsored HB 545, which eliminated the sales tax on period products in November 2019.
Utah – In December 2019, Utah ended the tampon tax. During the 2020 general session, unfortunately, Utah repealed the bill that ended the tampon tax. Utah currently taxes period products.
Washington – In April 2020, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill ending the sales tax on all period products.
Vermont – On June 8, 2021, Governor Phil Scott signed into law a tax bill that included no tax on period products. The bill went into effect on July 1, 2021.
Maine – In July 2021, Maine nobly amended their tax policy to include menstrual products as a 'grocery staple.'
Michigan – The taxes on period products ended in November 2021.
Louisiana – Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed a bill making period products tax-free in June 2021. The bill went into effect on July 1, 2022.
New Mexico – March 2022, New Mexico has exempted the sales tax on period products by allowing retailers to deduct the tax on the products from gross receipts and gross governmental receipts. This exemption method is not standard or direct, so an evaluation is necessary to determine the effectiveness and the total number of taxpayers that actually claimed the exemption. Evaluation will be conducted by the New Mexico legislature in 2023.
Nebraska – In April 2022, Nebraska joined in and ended its tax on period products.
Colorado – Colorado passed a bill to end the tampon tax in June 2022. The bill will go into effect on January 1, 2023.
Iowa – In June 2022, Iowa exempted period products from sales tax. The bill will go into effect on January 1, 2023.
Virginia – In 2019, Virginia classified period products as necessities similar to food and dropped the tax rate to 1.5% instead of 7%. In July 2022, they removed the sales tax on essentials. The bill will also go into effect on January 1, 2023.
Supporting the Cause
Pharmacy chain, CVS, has entered the chat with a 25% off discount on period products, essentially paying for the tampon tax in 12 states. (Texas, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Virginia, Utah, South Carolina, Missouri, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Hawaii.) They could not cover the others because of a law prohibiting organizations from covering a product's taxes.
With all those improvements to praise, much more work must be done. Long-term progress is necessary for the 22 remaining states. Some still need legislation in place to eliminate the tampon tax, and others have been putting up a fight with the public. For instance, in Texas, where Wombilee is based, there have been previous attempts to repeal the period tax, and failed for the last 5 years. Texas needs more voices to help repeal the tampon tax once and for all. Action Network has assembled a straightforward letter to send to Texas state legislatures. You can sign the petition to end the tampon tax in Texas here. And if you're a resident in any of the 22 states where the period tax remains, write a letter to your Congress member and/or Senator.
What About 'The Pink Tax'?
The tampon tax isn't the only upcharge burdening budgets and lifestyles. As women continue to address the issues that discredit their contributions to society, another bizarre contradiction has come to notice. If women are consistently struggling to keep up monetarily, why are they paying more for particular products? This is known as 'the pink tax'.
The pink tax is the unofficial name that refers to the sale of products marketed specifically toward women that are prone to be more expensive than those marketed toward men. These can be products that aren't necessarily for any particular gender–razors, soaps, shampoos, and even clothing and haircuts.
The term 'pink tax' is attributed to gender-based price discrimination, stemming from the observation that many of these products are targeted at women with pink, purple, or feminized labeling as opposed to "masculine" packaging with darker colors like black, gray, and blue. According to these companies' marketing techniques, nothing screams feminine like the fragrant scent of cherry blossom.
Women, who are already paid less than men, have to pay taxes on their menstrual health products and extra costs for their personal care products. Besides the money missing from their paychecks, how much is missing from their bank accounts each year? It would be interesting to know how all this money could benefit women if they were able to reinvest the lost money into themselves. Instead, businesses benefit as they exploit this obvious inequality.
Feminized products and services are mostly based on the stigma that girls and/or women are more posh or elaborate than males. From glittery designs to floral fragrances—it's like an unspoken rule that says that women are expected to be particular about their vanity or appearance. In contrast, males are expected to be more laid back or rugged. Hence, grooming products for men are less expensive, and prices are boosted for women. Regardless of your preferences, it shouldn't affect your wallet.
What Has Been Done About The Pink Tax?
The pink tax has gotten a lot of attention over the years. You'll notice that many retailers have changed this unspoken policy, making the sale of a single-blade razor a simple task rather than a human rights issue.
A few states have prohibited this price adjustment on these products, but it has yet to be a federal law. But don't fret; on June 11, 2021, the bill was introduced to the Congressional House. The goal of the Pink Tax Repeal Act is to end gender discrimination across goods and services on a national level. The fight for women's rights continues, you can keep track of the Pink Tax Repeal's progress here.