Does Your State Have A Period Tax?

Illustrated by Vero Romero.
Jennifer Weiss-Wolf has been fighting for menstrual equity since 2015, and says people are constantly asking her why she picked this particular area of gender justice out of the many that need attention.
"There are all of these issues of equality and justice in these challenging times for women's rights," Weiss-Wolf, cofounder of Period Equity, the country’s first law and policy organization created to fight for menstrual equity, tells Refinery29. "People will look at this one and say it seems a little marginal. But it's important to remind people how central it is and how it ties in to other issues. The challenge is getting people to come along and see the broad gateway that this issue is."
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For one thing, the marginalization of menstruation contributes to women's economic equality with the so-called "tampon tax": 33 states still tax menstrual products like tampons, pads, liners, and period cups, while items as disparate as doughnuts and Viagra manage to stay exempt. This puts a greater financial burden on people who menstruate, who spend an estimated $150 million a year just on the sales tax for these products.
Weiss-Wolf, author of 2017 book Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity, has made it her life's work and passion to alleviate this burden. Together with organic feminine-care brand LOLA, Weiss-Wolf and Laura Strausfeld, Period Equity cofounder, are waging the Tax Free. Period. campaign, aimed at eliminating the period tax — and at the broader scope of menstrual equity, which is also about issues like providing students, incarcerated women, and shelter residents with menstrual products because they are basic necessities.
"It’s first and foremost about lifting the financial burden off of people with periods; calling out laws that are archaic, unfair, and discriminatory; and helping us move toward a better model of economic parity and gender equity," Jordana Kier, founder of LOLA, tells Refinery29. "It’s also a gateway to get people talking and thinking about the wider socioeconomic implications of menstruation."
The crux of the issue from a legislative standpoint, says Weiss-Wolf, is that tampons and pads are — as pretty much anyone who menstruates will tell you — a necessity for about half the population at some point in their lives, and one of the tenets of the U.S. tax system is that items that are considered necessary for life are afforded a tax exemption. But since, unlike many other countries, we don't have a national sales tax, there are more than 50 different battles to wage and gazillions of complicated tax codes to go through. (Weiss-Wolf would know; she did it for her book.) Plus, many industries that sell items most of us wouldn't consider a necessity (see: doughnuts), have waged successful campaigns for tax-exempt status.
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Weiss-Wolf summarizes it like this: "Our sales-tax laws are completely messed up."
The fight is going in the right direction. Back in 2015, 40 states did not exempt menstrual products from sales tax. Since then, 32 states have raised the issue in their legislative chambers and seven actually made menstrual products tax-exempt. "These laws have taken off like wildfire," says Weiss-Wolf.
But there's so much more to do. To join the movement, you can sign the petition online, read about the history of menstrual advocacy, and even get your money back on tampons and pads. You can also learn about where your state stands on the tampon tax, ahead.

This state still has a period tax.


This state doesn't have a sales tax, so there's no period tax either.


This state still has a period tax.


This state still has a period tax.


Of all the states, California has introduced the most period-tax legislation, although permanent attempts to abolish the tampon tax have failed. Gov. Gavin Newsom put a Band-Aid on the issue in May, announcing the creation of a temporary tax exemption from 2020 to 2022.


The city of Denver has voted to eliminate the tampon tax, but the whole state has yet to follow suit.


Connecticut's tampon-tax elimination went into effect in 2018. "Fair is fair," said State Rep. Kelly Juleson-Scopino. "There's an inequity that exists when women are taxed on their biology."


This state doesn't have a sales tax, so there's no period tax either.


As part of a larger tax-cut package, Florida said bye-bye to its tampon tax in 2018.


Lawmakers included funding in the 2020 budget to provide free menstrual products for schools and community centers, but the period tax is still intact.


This state still has a period tax.


This state still has a period tax.


Illinois became the third state to repeal its tampon tax in 2016. Previously, the state considered tampons "luxury items," which...wow.


This state still has a period tax.


This state still has a period tax.


This state still has a period tax.


State Rep. Attica Scott filed a bill to end the period tax earlier this year, and it will be considered at the next legislative session. "This is about our health," Scott said. "This is not optional."


A bill exempting menstrual products and diapers from taxation has been sent to the State House, and if it's successful it will go into effect in 2021. "They are not an option. You have to have them. They are not a luxury," said State Sen. J.P. Morrell. "I think this is a moral issue."

Legislators approved the tax-exempt bill in 2018, but the governor has yet to sign it.


Maryland designates menstrual products as non-taxable medical items, along with baby oil and baby powder.


Massachusetts was one of the earliest states to end its tampon tax. The state designates menstrual products as non-taxable medical items.


Legislators have introduced bills to end the period tax. "Feminine-hygiene products are a necessity and to use them isn't a choice," State Sen. Winnie Brinks said in a statement. "For some, the cost over the course of a year, or even a lifetime, is already difficult to bear before factoring taxes. We should treat these products like any other medical expense and create easier access for every woman in Michigan."


In Minnesota, items like baby bottles, breast pumps, and diapers are tax-exempt in addition to menstrual products.


This state still has a period tax.


This state still has a period tax.


This state doesn't have a sales tax, so there's no period tax either.


State Sen. Megan Hunt introduced a bill to end the period tax in early 2019, and it could be voted on in 2020.


Nevada became the 10th state to eliminate the "pink tax" in 2018, with 56.9% of voters approving of the measure, which frankly seems low.


This state doesn't have a sales tax, so there's no period tax either.


Pads and tampons, as well as items like heating pads, are tax-exempt in New Jersey.


This state still has a period tax.


New York got rid of its period tax in 2016, and the law will go into effect in 2020. "New York has been an absolute leader, and deserves all the props and shoutouts," says Weiss-Wolf. "It's leading the way for the entire country." The Empire State has also ensured menstrual access in schools and for the incarcerated, and is the first state to require the disclosure of ingredients in menstrual products.


This state still has a period tax.


This state still has a period tax.


In November 2019, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law a measure repealing the state's sales tax on menstrual products.


This state still has a period tax.


This state doesn't have a sales tax, so there's no period tax either.


Pennsylvania exempts menstrual products from being taxed, along with toilet paper and diapers.


Rhode Island's tampon-tax repeal went into effect on October 1, 2019.


This state still has a period tax.


This state still has a period tax.


This state still has a period tax.


This state still has a period tax.


This state still has a period tax.


This state still has a period tax.


Virginia has lowered its tampon tax by more than half, to 2.5%, which will be effective in January 2020 — but has yet to repeal it. "We know that menstrual supplies and diapers are necessary to leave home for work, school, and social activities," said State Sen. Jennifer Boysko. "I am so glad we have made progress on the issue of menstrual equity and at long last will have tax relief for these products that women and families have to purchase."



This state still has a period tax.


This state still has a period tax.


This state still has a period tax.


This state still has a period tax.
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