Tampon Tax?

Author: Bansari Kavaiya, Flower Mound High School '21

10 years. On average, a woman spends ten years of her life on her period. 10 years of purchasing already expensive feminine hygiene products, and on top of that, a governmental luxury tax.

While about 16 states have already eradicated the need for a luxury tax on tampons, Texas remains one of the 34 states in which the tax is still effective. Especially in Dallas, countless protests and government bills have made their way into the Dallas City Hall, yet no change has been made. The luxury tax has been presented as illegal, considering that menstruation is only applicable to women. The luxury tax on feminine hygiene products is now seen as a form of sex-based discrimination, as presented by an organization called “Tax Free. Period.” Currently, their menstrual equity movement has been extended to Tax Day 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic is taking the government’s full attention; however, quarantine is an excellent time to raise awareness of exactly how unjust it is for the government to be essentially profiting off of women’s bodies.

Specifically in Dallas, members of the menstrual movement called upon state legislation at Dallas City Hall to address the luxury tax inappropriately placed on feminine sanitary products. The event was sponsored by PERIOD, a non-profit organization whose goal is to eliminate period poverty and stigmatization through advocacy, education, and service. The movement took place on October 19th, 2019, however, yielded no results.

In Texas, the sales tax ranges from 6.25% to 8.25% depending on the city, and major Texas cities like Dallas and Houston have their shoppers pay the maximum rate. The opposing argument is that if we include tampons and pads into the medical necessities tab and exempt those items from sales tax, people will want daily hygiene items like soap, toothpaste, hairbrushes, and diapers to also be exempt from the sales tax. Along with that, the sales tax rates on other goods must be increased to balance out the revenue the government will lose from exempting feminine hygiene products from luxury tax. However, taxpayers in Texas will be able to cope with the small loss they will experience from loosening the luxury tax on feminine hygiene products from the luxury tax it is currently under. On top of that, roping in other sanitary items does not propose a proper backing, as soap, diapers, and toothpaste are products used by everyone in the general public, regardless of their sex.

The deal with the luxury tax on feminine hygiene products blatantly contradicts the Texas Constitution. In article 8, section 1, the section states the taxation must be equal and uniform. However, feminine hygiene products are items that are medically required and only used by women and are one of the only medically required products that are taxed by the state of Texas.The uniformity of the tax is absent, as other medically required items such as OTCs like painkillers and hand sanitizers are exempt from the luxury tax. Additionally, male hygiene products, such as Rogaine and Viagra are exempt from the luxury tax, being classified as medical necessities. In which case does this unjust tax present itself as “equal and uniform”, as presented by the Texas Constitution?

This tax has been debated for a long time, to the extent to where various bills by Texas politicians have been submitted to be passed by the governor, yet none have been passed or even viewed by the State. Oddly enough, a bill written to exempt heated baked items when not sold with plates and eating utensils— this was the only bill that made it to the floor and to the governor.

Our community needs to understand that for us to progress, we need to leave behind such sexist taxes and stop ignoring the facts. This tax is unjust, discriminating, and hinders people who are not able to afford feminine hygiene products because of its heavy tax. We as a community can band together and look towards a more equal future, with no unequal taxes.

Graphic by Sarah Luan, Greenhill School '21