Angela Capezza – Florida students have taken to Tallahassee hoping to encourage state lawmakers to end what’s become known as the “tampon tax.”
The term refers to the inclusion of feminine hygiene products on the list of items not exempt from Florida’s sales tax. Feminine hygiene products such as tampons and pads are subject to Florida’s 6.25% state sales tax, which generates an estimated $15 million dollars each year. Tampons and pads can cost up to $7-10 every month. This burden is estimated to amount to more than $18,000 over a lifetime. In 2015 alone, U.S. consumers spent $3.1 billion on pads, tampons and liners, according to the website Euromonitor. Florida students say their advocacy is about and not subjecting women to a state sales tax on a product that they believe is a necessity.
In the state of Florida, many categories of items are not subject the 6.25% state sales tax. Categories of what are deemed to be essential items or necessities of life—such as food and medical supplies—are exempt from sales tax. Among these are hundreds of items such as potato chips, American flags, and marshmallows, just to name a few. However, feminine hygiene products do not fall under any of these current categories of exemptions in the state of Florida. Which begs the question: are marshmallows more of a necessity than tampons?
The logic behind opposing the “tampon tax” is that people should not be taxed for any items that are a necessity. “In today’s society, women are out working on their own. We can’t just sit a[t] home and just lay around because it’s that time of the month,” said Florida student Kelsey Keathley. “We plan to tell [politicians] that it’s not fair that women are taxed on something that is necessary for us.” “Your cycle isn’t really something you control and right now, it’s considered a luxury tax. It’s actually a biological function,” added.
The problem, then, is not necessarily privileging candy over feminine hygiene, but a refusal to see tampons and other personal hygiene products as being comparable to food in terms of necessity. That’s less of a feminist issue specifically, and more of a public health issue with a feminist bend.
Advocates in Florida have endorsed both Senate Bill 176 and House Bill 63. Both aim to make feminine hygiene products state tax exempt.
Florida Senator Kathleen Passidomo, a Republican, which would create a sales-tax exemption for feminine hygiene products such as tampons, sanitary napkins and panty liners. SB 176 states, “[t]he sale of a feminine hygiene product is exempt from the tax imposed by this chapter. As used in this paragraph, the term ‘feminine hygiene product’ means a product used to absorb or contain menstrual flow, including, but not limited to, tampons, sanitary napkins, panty liners, and menstrual cups.” If approved, this act shall take effect January 1, 2018. Florida Representative Katie Edwards, a Democrat, proposed a similar bill—HB 63.
Those opposed to the bills note that the 6.25% state sales tax generated an estimated $15 million dollars flow into the state budget each year. These opponents argue that if the bills pass and succeed in removing the 6.25% state sales tax, the state will have to find a way to recoup the millions of dollars elsewhere.
From 1977 to 1986, feminine hygiene products were exempt from sales taxes. However, the Sales and Tax Exemption Study Commission determined collecting taxes on feminine hygiene products would generate $2.6 million in revenue in 1987-1988, with the amount growing to $3.9 million the following year. This mentality remains today.
Florida is one of 37 states that still impose a feminine hygiene products tax. Currently, Texas, Nevada, Virginia, Colorado, and Washington are considering legislation similar to SB 176 and HB 63 in order to exempt feminine hygiene products from sales tax. However, New York, Illinois, and Connecticut eliminated their “tampon tax” last year, joining Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, all of which have exempted feminine hygiene products from their state sales taxes.
“Tampons are not a luxury item, they are necessities, and pink razors are not worth more than blue razors,” said Nevada Representative Dina Titus. “This isn’t an argument about fiscal policy. It is about fairness and equality for women.” University of Florida women’s studies associate professor, Alyssa Zucker stated, “I think any woman will tell you that tampons and pads and other things women use for their period are not luxury items. So they should be treated the way groceries are, as just a daily necessity.” Floridians who are in favor of these bills wait to see if the proposed bills will continue to pass through the legislature.