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Tampon Taxes: Do Feminine Hygiene Products Deserve a Sales Tax Exemption?

Tax Foundation logoState lawmakers in the past couple of years have debated whether to exempt feminine hygiene products from the sales tax. However, despite the “tampon tax” moniker, a new report by Tax Foundation Economist Nicole Kaeding explains that there is no punitive tax on tampons. Exempting these products from the sales tax base will simply continue the trend of narrowing tax bases and rising tax rates.

“Advocates continue to push states to remove feminine hygiene products from their state sales tax bases, calling the sales taxation a ‘tampon tax,'” Kaeding writes. “Tampons and other feminine hygiene products are not subject to a special or unique tax in any state. Currently, 12 states do not include feminine hygiene products in their sales tax base for a variety of reasons, but moves to exempt these goods from taxation violate the principles of sound sales tax policy.”

Key Findings

  • In 2016, at least 13 states and the District of Columbia considered proposals to exempt feminine hygiene products from the state sales tax. Ultimately, Connecticut, Illinois, New York, and the District of Columbia adopted the proposed exemptions.
  • Ideally, sales tax should apply to all final consumer purchases, without regard for whether a product is a “necessity” or “luxury.”
  • Of the 45 states which impose statewide sales taxes, seven—Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania—specifically exempt feminine hygiene products from the sales tax base.
  • No state assesses a special or unique tax on feminine hygiene products.
  • Exempting feminine hygiene products is part of a broader trend of shrinking state sales tax bases. Smaller sales tax bases lead to higher overall sales tax rates.

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