Pink tax, tampon tax, period tax — the rule goes by different names, but all refer to the sales tax people pay to purchase pads and tampons.
The sales tax on these products, essential for everyone that menstruates, has long been under scrutiny. Slowly, the tide is starting to turn.
On Thursday, a proposal repealing Ohio’s sales tax on menstrual products passed the state’s House with unanimous support. The proposal was folded into a larger bill providing tax credits for teachers buying school supplies out-of-pocket.
But that doesn’t mean that Ohio will become the latest state to lose its sales tax on tampons. The proposal passed the House, but needs to go through the Senate and then to Republican Gov. Mike DeWine.
Last December, the House launched a similar proposal — one that didn’t make it past the Senate. There’s no telling if this version will be more successful, but if it is, Ohio will become the 16th state with no sales tax on menstrual products.
Which states don’t tax menstrual products, and why does it matter?
Ten states across the US have all already nixed the tampon tax: Minnesota, Illinois, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and, most recently, Nevada.
Oregon, Montana, Alaska, Delaware and New Hampshire also don’t tax menstrual products, but that’s because they don’t have general sales tax.
California is on the fence. Gov. Gavin Newsom backed a sales tax exemption for menstrual products and diapers earlier this year, the Los Angeles Times reported, but the exemption only lasts for two years.
Every other state in the US allows sales tax on menstrual products, which critics say is unfair.
Dasha Burns, a writer and strategist, wrote in a CNN op-ed in 2016 that people who menstruate — including women, young girls, transsexual men and non-binary folks — don’t have a choice to not purchase menstrual products. It especially impacts people who are low-income, she wrote. State governments frequently exempt goods like prescription drugs or over-the-counter medication from sales tax, and the same should be done for menstrual products, Burns argues.
“This goes beyond the dollar amount. This is institutional and systematic sexism,” she said.
Why do states continue to tax pads and tampons?
It comes down to money.
Newsom, of California, when asked why he limited the tax exemption to two years, said it was because the state might not be able to afford it past 2021.
“We hope to extend it, but we hope to be in a fiscal position to do so and we want to maintain our prudence,” he said back in May. “We want to maintain a balanced structural budget.”
According to Nevada’s fiscal note, explaining the menstrual product exemption question on the ballot ahead of the state’s general election in 2018, purchases from menstrual products would “generate total taxable sales of … between $72.8 million to $104.0 million each fiscal year.”
Losing the sales tax, though, would result in a loss of $4.96 million to $7.11 million in tax revenue per year, it said.
Voters still approved the sales tax exemption, which went into effect on the first day of 2019 and will last until 2028.