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.”