Axe the Tampon Tax Before it Bleeds Women Dry
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Let’s be real, periods suck. Everyone who has ever experienced one or been around someone who has them knows they’re plain awful.
Despite the excellence of being able to bleed for seven days and not die, along with that monthly reminder that, surprise, you’re not pregnant, periods don’t really have anything going for them. Women get bloated and they get cranky, however there is really no point in complaining about the hand mother nature has dealt. Women bleed, this is not new information.
What is frustrating is that women have to deal with that pesky sales tax on items to help them deal with that time of the month. Beyond being expensive to begin with, tacking on taxes can make feminine hygiene products unaffordable for those with lower incomes.
On Feb. 1 Rep. Sharon Wiley introduced HB 1880 to the Washington State Legislature. The bill is meant to make feminine hygiene products tax exempt for anyone who receives state public assistance.
Sanitary napkins and tampons are not included on the Retail Sales Tax Exemptions list for Washington state. According to the Tax Rate Lookup Tool from the Department of Revenue Washington State website, the retail sales tax rate for the Cheney area is 0.086.
Let’s put this in context. Say you spend $9.27 on a package of 58 pads at Walmart, you would roughly spend 81 cents in taxes on that package. Not so bad, right? Now say you buy a new package every three months, you’d be spending roughly $3.24 in taxes a year. Still not so bad. Over a woman’s lifetime, she can expect to spend around $350 in taxes for her period.
Keep in mind this doesn’t include the cost of dealing with period side effects, which the government is kind enough to include in on the tax exemptions list under the guise of over-the-counter medications.
The thing is, as hard as we wracked our brains, we just couldn’t find a male equivalent. Of course, there shouldn’t need to be a male equivalent for this issue to matter to the greater public.
This is a tax that affects half of the state population, and over half the population of EWU. Washington state collects millions of dollars annually in sales tax on feminine hygiene products. According to the Department of Revenue Fiscal Note for HB 1880, the bill is expected to reduce state general fund revenue by an estimated $1.4 million in the first biennium.
Rep. Wiley said in the fiscal hearing Feb. 7 “The bill before you isn’t what I started with. The best description of this bill is the least we can do.”
Rep. Wiley went on to say she considered a bill to make these products tax exempt for everyone, but this brought up the issue of diapers and the question of where to draw the line.
“At the end of the day I decided to start small,” said Rep. Wiley. “I also am offering a second bill to take a real good look at what we exempt and what we don’t exempt on sales tax. To take a look at the fact that we try to exempt food and medicine but there are other products that are essential for people’s health and dignity.”
The Washington State Department of Revenue has a list of items that are not currently subject to sales tax, and a few gems on this list include: livestock feed, film and video production equipment, ferry boats, dietary supplements and prescription drugs, football stadium parking and our personal favorite, human body parts.
We’re not say those items should be taxed, however it seems unfair that women are subjected to spend extra funds on something they have no control over. Feminine hygiene products shouldn’t be taxed, though if the government finds they can’t live without that money, they could at least put those funds toward programs that are meant to benefit women in some way.