Has your state gotten rid of the tampon tax?

With only 16 states deeming tampons and pads necessities — and therefore exempt from sales tax — you might be wondering what's going on in the other 34 states.

It's hard to believe that in 2019, these states are still telling women that their bodies don't matter by charging a tax on tampons. But that's not the full story. Local advocates, like the Virginia Menstrual Equity Coalition and Georgia STOMP, have been hard at work pressuring lawmakers to repeal the tax. Here's the status of each state:

Nice try, California, but not good enough 

Last week, two bills passed unanimously in California — Senate Bill 92 and Assembly Bill 31 — both proposals to exempt menstrual products from state sales tax. 

Time to pop the champagne? Not quite. Once the bills are put into effect, tampons and pads sold in California will only be tax-exempt for two years.

The “tampon tax,” as it is widely known, will take a temporary leave of absence from California during the period of January 1, 2020 until January 1, 2022. 

Back in May, Governor Gavin Newsom similarly introduced this time-limited tax cut in his revised budget proposal. He was praised by his constituents, many of whom cheered that the fight to remove the tampon tax was nearing its end. 

The Governor signed off on the budget on June 27. Newsom expressed that the tax exemption was long overdue and “the right thing to do.” We agree completely. 

But if this issue is so salient, why is it only being addressed for a two-year period? Does this bill fully prioritize the dignity of those who menstruate and need access to these products, or is it simply a convenient talking point for the budget? 

While we’d like to celebrate another win in our ongoing fight to eliminate the tampon tax California compromise is not good enough. And we shouldn’t settle for a quick fix.

If we do, we risk losing the growing momentum of menstrual activism throughout the state, as Californians settle into this impermanent solution and grow complacent. When 2022 rolls around, and the tampon tax goes back into effect, we will have to renew the same fight all over again.

California’s budget fix should be seen as an incremental victory, and therefore, an incomplete one. There are still 34 other states taxing our periods, and we say it is time for a legal intervention.

Temporary solutions are not acceptable — which is why Tax Free. Period. is raising the stakes. We are mobilizing legal action to eliminate the tampon tax nationwide.

The access and affordability of menstrual products is not a temporary issue. We need these items month after month, year after year. Writing menstruation into our laws sets a crucial precedent: that our reproductive health is valued by our states and the law.

Although California legislators have made a step in the right direction, we should not have to revisit this fight again in 2022. Now is the time to make a permanent legal change.

 Live in California? Take our pledge at taxfreeperiod.com and tell your state leaders how you feel about the tax on menstrual products.

- Sarah Wolf, Period Equity

Rhode Island legislators reach compromise on the tampon tax

For the fourth year in a row, Rhode Island legislators debated the “tampon tax” — that is, whether menstrual products should be sales tax-exempt. Odds are that at least some of them enjoy untaxed golf club memberships on the weekends.

State Senator Louis DiPalma and Representative Edith Ajello introduced sister bills in the House and Senate on February 6th, 2019, SB 0049 and HB 5307, each of which would exempt menstrual products from the sales and use taxes. DiPalma and Ajello have introduced those bills every year since 2016 — with no success until now.

Both bills wound their way slowly through the process this year. While legislators appeared supportive in theory, many still backtracked when it comes to the $650,000 hit to general revenues. The status quo must not continue to be that women and menstruating people solely bear that burden.

Finally, a compromise has been reached. Senator DiPalma added a proposal to the state budget that would make menstrual products exempt from sales tax, and both the House and the Senate approved the budget.

In the budget signed by Governor Gina Raimondo, the tax exemption for menstrual products will now take effect on October 1, 2019. According to Representative Ajello, the tax-exempt status will carry over to future budgets — and will not expire or require new action like other parts of the budget. She added that it is unlikely that there will be an effort to undo the exemption in coming years.

Diandra Kalish, a menstrual health advocate and Social Studies teacher in Rhode Island said, “I was frankly shocked to learn that when I went to testify over the past few months it was the fourth year that these bills had been up. I would prefer that they made a law exempting it [the tax] for sure, because this [the budget] is not ensuring that at some point these products wouldn't be subject to tax again.” Kalish went on to say that perhaps the budget bill is a way to make progress while the original bills are stuck.

We at Tax Free. Period. celebrate this victory in Rhode Island. But we also believe that the tax-exempt status of menstrual products must be fully enshrined into law. A budget line can ebb and flow at the whim of the state's leadership or in light of its fiscal health. The tampon tax is state-sanctioned discrimination that needs to be permanently eradicated in all 50 states.

Live in Rhode Island? Want to make your voice heard? Contact the decision makers and tell them how you feel about the tax on menstrual products. Send your emails directly to Representative Marvin Abney at rep-abney@rilegislature.gov and Senator William Conley, Jr. at sen-conley@rilegislature.gov.

— Sarah Corning, Period Equity



Why Maine matters in the fight for menstrual equity

From Rockport to Kennebunkport, if you’re shopping in Maine and the two items on your list are pudding mix and a box of tampons, you might be surprised to learn which item is taxed. 

Spoiler alert: it’s not the dessert. In the state of Maine, all tampons, among other period products, are subject to a sales tax. That’s because these products are not deemed necessities worthy of a tax exemption — even though anyone with a period knows these items are, in fact, necessary. 

Maine is not an outlier. It is one of 35 states in the U.S. that still impose the tampon tax. What sets Maine apart, however, is that it is uniquely poised to end this discriminatory practice. 

This January, Maine lawmakers proposed a tampon tax bill, LD 286, which has since passed in both the Maine House and Senate this session. The bill is currently in review with the Appropriations Committee, awaiting its fate.  

It’s also not the first time Maine has made headlines over menstrual policy. Earlier this year, Maine lawmakers debated over legislation that would ensure free access to menstrual products in state prisons. Rep. Richard Pickett publicly opposed it, quipping that jails were never meant to be “a country club.” His remark showed not only a lack of understanding of menstruation, but also reinforced the view of tampons and pads as frivolous, or a luxury.

This ignorance is exactly why this time around, Maine needs to end the tampon tax for good — and make clear to its constituents that access to affordable and accessible menstrual products is a priority.

Local advocates have made their voices heard. Testimonies flooded the legislative session this year, ranging from chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and National Association of School Nurses, to high school students. “As a school nurse,  students were frequenting my office regularly for supplies that they either did not have access to or could not afford,”said Janis Hogan of Belfast, Maine. She contacted her state representatives with a proposed solution: “I advocated having free period products in all of our female and transgender school bathrooms.”

Like Hogan, high school student Emeline Avignon of Long Island, Maine, is calling upon her representatives to make a change. Avignon is a fierce advocate for women’s health rights and dedicated her public policy research to the tampon tax.  She sums it up perfectly: “The tax itself is not just another economic burden, but more importantly it is a symbol of ignorance and oversight to issues and double standards which apply to females. Exempting the tax is a small, but important symbolic step toward that goal for women.”

Maine has the ability to set a national example. Tax Free. Period. calls upon Governor Janet Mills and Appropriations Committee chairs, Senator Cathy Breen (D-Falmouth) and Representative Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook), to put an end to this illegal, discriminatory, and unconstitutional practice right now. 

Want to get involved in the fight to end the tampon tax? Visit taxfreeperiod.com to learn more.

— Sarah Wolf, Period Equity

22 States Considered Eliminating the ‘Tampon Tax’ This Year. Here’s What Happened.

“This year, lawmakers in 22 states introduced bills to repeal the tax, but none were signed into law. California and Rhode Island did repeal the tax in their budgets, while Virginia decreased it, and several states took steps to increase access to menstrual products in schools, prisons and shelters.

But the dearth of action on the tax in most states frustrated proponents of  ‘menstrual equity,’ a concept that refers to equal access to information and period products. They say they are now exploring legal strategies to challenge the tax, and have invited experts to discuss the tactics at a conference this fall at Columbia Law School.”

Check out the full article on The New York Times.

Taxing tampons isn’t just unfair, it’s unconstitutional

“As a matter of policy, compassion and common sense, most states explicitly exempt ‘necessities of life’ from sales tax, with food and medicine at the top of the list. In some states, necessity exemptions include things such as bingo supplies, cotton candy, erectile dysfunction pills, gun club memberships and tattoos. Menstrual products certainly rank as a necessity for most women, for much of their lives. They are essential for attending school, working and functioning in society.

But as a matter of law, the argument extends far deeper. The tampon tax amounts to sex-based discrimination in violation of the equal protection clause, both under state and federal constitutions — making it more than merely unfair or inequitable, but unconstitutional and therefore illegal.”

Read the full article on the Los Angeles Times.

35 States in the U.S. Still Charge Women a Tampon Tax

“In 70% of states across the country, women are charged a sales tax when they buy feminine hygiene products.

Every state has its own list of items deemed “necessary” that are tax exempt, ranging from lip balm and dandruff shampoo and condoms, to pumpkins specifically for eating in Pennsylvania and gun club memberships in Wisconsin.

But aside from a handful of states, tampons and sanitary napkins are not included in this list of so-called “necessary” items. That means that women end up spending an estimated $150 million a year on the sales tax for these items.”

View the full article on Fortune.

Tampons are not “luxury” items: Why this campaign says the period tax must end

“Some old white guy once said that the only two guarantees in life are death and taxes. That may be true for old white guys, but for a different segment of the population, the other guarantee is getting your period (probably while you’re wearing your favorite white pants). While not everyone woman gets a period, enough of them do that there is no good reason (other than The Patriarchy) that period products like tampons and pads should be taxed as non-essential items.

A new campaign started today is working to change this inequity. Leading the charge are Lola, an all-natural period-product subscription service, and Period Equity, the lawyers who launched the original fight in the U.S. against the tampon tax in 2015 and successfully pressured New York State to remove it. The new campaign has one goal: Tax-free periods across the nation by Tax Day 2020.”

Read the full article on Fast Company.



Female Founders Call Tampon Tax Unconstitutional And Put A Deadline On Reform

“Last October, period equity supporters celebrated  Nevada’s vote against the sales tax  imposed on feminine hygiene products. Nevada became the 15th state to eliminate the tax and fueled the national debate around what constitutes a necessity product and who gets to define it. However, as legislative sessions now come to a close for the summer, there has been no further substantial progress on this issue.

In an effort to put an end to this paralysis, the founders of women’s reproductive health brand  LOLA, Jordana Kier and Alex Friedman, have joined forces with Jennifer Weiss-Wolf and Laura Strausfeld, from  Period Equity, the nation’s first policy organization committed to menstrual equity and to ensuring that menstrual products are affordable, safe and available to those in need.”

Check out the full article at Forbes.

"Why haven’t we gotten rid of the tampon tax yet?"

A few weeks ago, California Governor Gavin Newsom made national headlines when he unveiled his revised budget plan, including a proposal to scrap the “tampon tax.”

Newsom was celebrated by press outlets and politicians alike — including Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia who has, incidentally, advocated for a bill to eliminate the sales tax on menstrual products in California numerous times.

Garcia has said this proposal is all about creating “menstrual equity.” In other words, people with periods should not be taxed for products their biology requires.

But it’s important to note that Newsom’s proposal does not mean this tax will be eliminated in perpetuity. If his proposed budget is passed, the tax exemptions would only last for the duration of the fiscal years between January 2020 and January 2025.

Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, legal activist and attorney, and author of Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity, was quick to point this out in her recent op-ed for Newsweek:

“The sales tax-exempt status of menstrual products must be permanently enshrined into law, not a one-off budget line that can ebb and flow at the whim of the state’s leadership or in light of its fiscal health.”

Where we stand today

Currently, there are 35 states in the U.S. that impose a sales tax on menstrual products. You’re probably wondering why that’s the case in some states, but not others. And here’s why:

Over the years, there have been nuanced arguments over what constitutes “necessity” among consumer goods and, as such, gets exempt from sales tax. As a result, each state subjectively dictates the classification of items — and period products are not always deemed necessities.

Let’s put that into perspective with a few important facts:

1. In those 35 states that do tax tampons, several other “necessities” are exempt from sales tax. The list varies from state to state, including things like: BBQ sunflower seeds, bingo supplies, gun club memberships, and more.

2. Many of these states go one step further, classifying a subset of the above items as “medical necessities.” Among the items included in this category: erectile dysfunction pills, dandruff shampoos, and hair loss treatments for men.

3. According to Period Equity, it’s estimated that the tampon tax costs Americans who menstruate more than $150 million a year. Take a minute to let that number sink in.

So, why aren’t more people talking about the tampon tax? And how do we ensure that our laws don’t discriminate against those of us who menstruate?

How the battle is won

As lifelong residents of New York, we were proud to see our home state be among the first to eliminate the tampon tax for good. (Though, on a national level, we’re still fighting for the right to pay for menstrual products with our hard-earned FSA dollars.)

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation in the summer of 2016, making New York the 11th state without a tax on menstrual products.

How did it happen? A group of five New York residents, mobilized by Weiss-Wolf and fellow attorney-activist Laura Strausfeld, filed a class action lawsuit in New York State court. The plaintiffs argued that the tampon tax is discrimination.

Weiss-Wolf and Strausfeld are the co-founders of Period Equity, the nation’s first law and policy organization fighting for menstrual equity. Together, they are taking on the tampon tax, one state at a time, while advocating for period products that are affordable, safe, and accessible.

This lawsuit also followed an editorial by the New York Times, urging its state, and others, to stop taxing feminine hygiene products. “Getting rid of taxes on these products is an important first step toward making them affordable for all.”

We’ve got work to do

Since New York repealed the tampon tax, other states have followed suit, including Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, and Nevada. But that leaves more than half of the country — 35 states — with some form of sales tax on menstrual products.

While that number may seem daunting, let’s not forget that it only took a group of New Yorkers to rally their community and put pressure on their home state.

We’ve seen the power of our own LOLA community over the past few years. Together, we’ve donated over two million period products to women in need across the U.S.

But it’s not enough to focus solely on the financial burden of taxing our period products. We must see the tampon tax for what it is — an act of discrimination against people with periods.

In his statement, Cuomo said, “This is a regressive tax on essential products that women have had to pay for far too long and lifting it is a matter of social and economic justice.”

We couldn’t agree more.

— Alex Friedman and Jordana Kier, co-founders of LOLA

Why periods should be tax-free

The “tampon tax” — the shorthand phrase for the sales tax applied to menstrual products — is a key issue in the fight for menstrual equity.

Currently, in 35 states across the U.S., people with periods have to pay a sales tax on their tampons and pads. And that’s in addition to the five to 10 dollars they shell out, monthly.

The gist of our argument? That’s unfair and inequitable treatment. Especially in light of some of the items that are classified as “necessities” in those 35 states and, therefore, exempt from sales tax. The list varies from state to state, including things like: gun club and golf club memberships, BBQ sunflower seeds and beef jerky.

Wins worth celebrating

Since 2015, 32 state legislatures have moved to eliminate the tampon tax. And five have succeeded: Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, and New York passed laws to codify it, while citizens of Nevada voted in favor of a ballot measure to do the same. (That doesn’t include the 10 states that don't tax these products as a general matter.

The fight has gone global, too. In recent years, new tax laws have been passed in diverse nations and economies, including Australia, India, Malaysia, and South Africa, among others.

We think the United States hasn’t gone the distance. And that the sales tax-exempt status of menstrual products must be permanently enshrined into law.

The real victory to come

As a matter of good policy, taking on and taking down the tampon tax has the potential to accomplish four key objectives: it lifts a small financial burden; it challenges laws that are archaic; it helps inch toward a model of economic parity and gender equity; and it is a gateway for getting people to talk and think about the wider implications of menstruation — social, economic, and otherwise — in the public sphere.

But as a matter of law, the argument extends far deeper. The tampon tax also amounts to sex-based discrimination in violation of equal protection, at both the state and federal levels. In other words, the tampon tax is more than merely unfair or inequitable — it’s potentially illegal and unconstitutional.

How we treat menstruation in our laws matters. That’s why Period Equity and LOLA are mobilizing legal action to ensure that the cost of periods — including, and especially, the tampon tax — does not pose a barrier to anyone’s ability to obtain an education, live with dignity, and participate fully and productively in civic life.

 — Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, author of Periods Gone Public: Taking A Stand For Menstrual Equity, and co-founder of Period Equity

A conversation with the founders of Tax Free. Period.

It’s been a week since LOLA and Period Equity announced we’re joining forces in a legal fight to end the tampon tax in the U.S. The response to our campaign, Tax Free. Period., has been tremendous so far. Thousands of you have already pledged to stand with us, and taken to social media to spread the word:

TFP_Insta_Template_Serena.jpg

And this is just the beginning. We asked the faces behind the campaign — LOLA co-founders Jordana Kier and Alex Friedman, and Period Equity co-founders Jennifer Weiss-Wolf and Laura Strausfeld — to sit down to discuss the tampon tax, why it needs to be eliminated, and what you (yes, you!) can do to help.

Read the full interview here

Jordana: Hey, everyone! We are here at LOLA HQ. Today is a super exciting day. We've launched Tax Free. Period. in conjunction with our friends over at Period Equity, which is the nation's first law and policy organization committed to fighting for menstrual equity. We're super excited to have Jen and Laura, the co-founders of Period Equity, here with us today to do a little bit of tampon tax 101.  

Alex: So, to start: what is the tampon tax?

Jennifer: States have the opportunity to exempt certain necessary items from sales tax: food and prescription medications are often the things that they choose. In 35 of the 50 states right now, menstrual products — tampons and pads — don't make the cut, and therefore are not exempt from sales tax.

Alex: You first coined the phrase “menstrual equity” in your book. What is menstrual equity?

Jennifer: Menstrual equity is a broader policy frame in which the tampon tax, and advocacy to remove it, exists. It's this idea that without access to affordable or safe menstrual products or information people are really at a disadvantage, and perhaps even unable to participate equitably and fully in daily life...whether it's going to school, being part of the economy. So that is sort of this broader frame of equitable access to menstrual products.

Jordana: You both have been such loud advocates for menstrual equity, but specifically the tampon tax. What makes Tax Free. Period. a different campaign than the other ones out there?

Laura: Well, I think we've established that the tampon tax is absolutely unfair. But it's also illegal, discriminatory, and unconstitutional. We are ready to test that legally. We really believe that the tampon tax should be eliminated in a year, and we're putting states on notice that we're serious about this.

Jordana: What can the LOLA community do to get involved?

Laura: The LOLA community can visit taxfreeperiod.com.

Jennifer: And they can rally everybody! Tell your friends it’s time to take down the tampon tax.

Alex: Yes! So, in sum, please join us at taxfreeperiod.com. Tweet at your governors. Join us for this fight. There's no reason why we should get taxed on our periods anymore.

Jennifer: By Tax Day 2020, the tampon tax is gone.

You can help eliminate the tampon tax. Visit taxfreeperiod.com to take the pledge.

Lola and Period Equity Launch Campaign to Dismantle the Tampon Tax Nationwide

“For so many people, menstrual products are a necessity. Still, many states tax tampons and other menstrual products as a luxury item, jacking up the prices on what can already be expensive commodities. Some states have passed legislation removing that tax, but as of June 2019, 35 states still charge a luxury tax on the products we put up our vaginas.

That's why on June 11 the founders of LOLA, Jordana Kier and Alex Friedman, and Period Equity, Jennifer Weiss-Wolf and Laura Strausfeld, are teaming up to launch a national campaign to end the tax on menstrual products known as the tampon tax. The campaign, called Tax Free. Period., will rally supporters like Serena Williams and Karlie Kloss to let the public know why taxing menstrual products is discriminatory, and empower people to do their own advocacy work on the issue. Through an educational campaign, a hackathon, and later legal action, Tax Free. Period. is hoping to get the public and legislators thinking about the tampon tax.”

Read the full article on Teen Vogue. 

How We Can Eliminate the Tampon Tax Nationwide

“Licorice. Chewing Gum. Chocolate Bars. Amusement park rides. Lip balm. Do you know what these things have in common? In various states across the U.S., these products are exempt from sales tax, while menstrual products are not.

Last week, Period Equity and LOLA launched Tax Free. Period., the first ever national coordinated media, advocacy, and legal campaign to end the sales tax on menstrual products in the U.S. once and for all, because these items are and should be considered basic, biological necessities (for more than half the population.)”

Check out the full op-ed on PopSugar.

Campaign aims to take down the tampon tax nationwide

“More than half of states still tax tampons as a luxury, and a group of women are behind a campaign to eliminate it across the country. 

Jennifer Weiss-Wolf and Laura Strausfeld, co-founders of law and policy organization Period Equity, launched the movement in 2016. With tampons still subject to sales tax in 35 states and some women struggling to afford sanitary products, the conversation level around menstrual equity has grown, per PBS NewsHour

To tackle the issue nationally, Weiss-Wolf and Strausfeld have partnered with Jordana Kier and Alex Friedman, founders of organic menstrual products brand LOLA, on legal and advocacy campaign “Tax Free. Period.” with the goal of exempting tampons and pads from sales tax everywhere.”

Check out the full article on The Business Journals’ Bizwomen.

Everything you need to know about the tampon tax

LOLA and Period Equity are joining in a legal fight to eliminate the tampon tax in the U.S. Here’s an overview with everything you need to know about the tax — and why we want it gone.

Is there an actual tampon tax?

Not exactly. When we refer to the “tampon tax,” we are using shorthand to call out the 35 states that do not classify period products as necessities and, as such, do not exempt tampons from sales tax. In the U.S., sales tax is legislated on the state level, so the list of items that are taxed and untaxed varies all over.

What’s the cost of the tampon tax?

If you regularly purchase tampons and pads for one year, you probably pay between $70 and $120, depending on where you live and how heavy your flow is. The cost of sales tax for each individual isn’t a huge sum, but according to Period Equity, states collectively profit $150 million a year from those who buy menstrual products. Challenging the tampon tax in the U.S. is about much more than lifting a financial burden on people with periods. It’s a way to call out laws that are archaic, unfair, and discriminatory. And we believe it will help us move toward a better model of economic parity and gender equity.

Is the tampon tax the same thing as the pink tax?

Actually, it’s not! The tampon tax refers specifically to the sales tax on menstrual products. The pink tax is a separate phenomenon referring to a gender-based price disparity for goods and services, with items that are marketed specifically towards women being inflated in price by approximately 7%, vs. products specifically marketed to men. While we believe that any gender-based economic discrepancies are unfair, we’re leveraging our respective expertise in reproductive health to win the fight against the tampon tax, which is a pivotal example of the larger stigma that exists against women’s health.

What is the process for a state to remove the tampon tax?

State legislature can pass a bill that amends its sales tax laws to specifically exempt menstrual products. When the governor signs, the bill becomes law. At every stage, though, there's a risk that the process will stall. We've seen this happen with proposed tampon tax bills over decades, and in many states, there is even a phenomenon known as "zombie bills,” referring to those that  are introduced year after year, without ever becoming law.

So, what’s the big deal?

We’ll answer this question with another question: what should be considered a necessity by law? Bingo supplies? Cotton candy? Gun club memberships? Tattoos? Believe it or not, these are some of the items that are *actually* exempt from sales tax in states that tax period products. And because tampons and pads are essential to half of the population, only half of the population gets taxed.

Our resident tampon tax expert, Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, says it best: “For the most part, without them, anyone who has a period is prone to humiliation[...]and an overall state of compromised hygiene.”

Chainsaws, Pixy Stix and other unnecessary items that are tax exempt, while tampons aren't

“For the activists of America's growing menstrual movement, this so-called "pink tax" has become a rallying cry. It's not that it's a luxury tax or a special tax that's applied only to these products; it is simply a regular sales tax that is applied to all products deemed non-necessities. But if half the population gets a period every month, then shouldn't the products we use to manage that biological function be considered necessities?

Weiss-Wolf, an attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice, thinks that they should. And for the past several years, as she traveled the country doing tampon tax advocacy, she also undertook the tedious endeavor of studying the full sales tax code for every state so that she could identify the most egregious examples of cases in which America has deemed items "necessities" that are far less necessary than tampons.”

Read the full article on CBS News.

Republican or Democrat—We Can All Agree on Axing the Tampon Tax

“In most states menstrual products are not sales tax-exempt, a category primarily reserved for food, prescription medications, and other "necessities of life." We contend—and have gained the backing of the  American Medical Association,  legal scholars, and hundreds of thousands of  petition-signers—that this (mis)classification creates an unfair and discriminatory levy.”

Read the full op-ed on Newsweek.