Florida lawmakers aim to remove taxes on feminine hygiene products

click to enlarge These are taxed, but Viagra isn't? - Cat Modlin-Jackson
Cat Modlin-Jackson
These are taxed, but Viagra isn't?

In Florida, women pay extra taxes.

Why?

Because it hasn't occurred to patriarchal leaders that basic necessities unique to the female experience perhaps ought not be taxed.

Florida is one of the nation’s many states that imposes a tax on tampons, pads, and menstrual cups. In Florida items deemed medically necessary are exempt from the state’s 6.25% sales tax. Period products — which any female of childbearing age will tell you are not frivolous goods — are currently not on that list. Viagra, on the other hand, is tax exempt. Apparently the state privileges a man’s pleasure over a woman’s health and ability to function in a society that doesn't allow them to hide in a tent somewhere over a five-day period.

State legislators — the majority of which are critics of taxation in most forms anyway — are inching toward passing a law that would ban the tax on menstrual products. On Tuesday the Florida Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved the Feminine Use Tax bill (SB 176). Senator Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) introduced the bill in December 2016, calling the move “common sense.” A related bill is pending in the Florida House (HB 7109).

If passed, the law would add feminine hygiene products, outlined by the bill to include any product “used to absorb or contain menstrual flow,” to the list of medically necessary products exempt from the Florida sales tax, effective January 1, 2018.

“These products are certainly not a luxury but basic necessity and as such, we should stop taxing them,” said Passidomo in a press release.

The move would save women in Florida $15 million, estimates Passidomo.

Lawmakers have banned the tampon tax in Illinois, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey and New York. In 2016 Connecticut passed similar legislation, which will take effect on July 1, 2018.

Florida hasn’t always taxed tampons. For a few short years between 1977-1986 feminine hygiene products were exempt from the sales tax. But the patriarchy prevailed after a Sales and Tax Exemption Study Commission estimated that reinstating the tax move would generate $2.6 million in 1987-1988. The tax was put back into play and once again women’s bodies were hijacked as cash cows for the state budget.

Banning the tampon tax in Florida would mark a small step in the fight against gender discrimination in consumer society, but it would not address gender-based price discrimination manifest in what’s commonly called the "pink tax."

There is more to the pink tax than tampons. Products marketed for females tend to be priced higher than similar goods marketed for men or marketed as gender-neutral. A 2011 study by the University of Central Florida found that women pay more per ounce for personal care products, and a 2015 study by the New York City Department of Affairs revealed an average markup of 7% on women’s products.

Findings from the report suggest that women pay thousands of dollars more than men over the course of their lifetime. That’s a hard gap to bridge when women make only 80% of men’s wages.

Last year U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) introduced a bill that would ban gender-based price discrimination. Lacking momentum in the male-majority House, the bill fizzled out.

Meanwhile in Florida, removing the tax on tampons would be a small but practical win for anyone who gives a damn about women’s reproductive and economic freedoms — so long as lawmakers get around to passing the law before the legislative session's scheduled end in May.

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