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Tampon tax opponents target states after major victory in Canada

by AirTalk®

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After decades of various campaigning on the issue, women and girls will no longer have to pay a five percent federal sales tax on tampons and sanitary napkins in Canada. Could California be next? Me and the sysop/Flickr

New Yorkers opposed to the taxation of feminine hygiene products are emboldened to back a new bill that seeks to end sales tax on tampons after Canadian lawmakers abolished their tax last week. Could California's sales tax on sanitary napkins, tampons and the like be next?

Starting July 1 in Canada, after decades of various campaigns on the issue, women and girls will no longer have to pay a 5 percent federal sales tax on what some call a "necessity of life." 

"There was a very vocal, very organized movement that argued for this and the lack of fairness around having, in the case of Canada, a national [sales] tax on these products," said Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, an activist in New York.

While numerous advocates and female politicians in Canada sought the change for years, the effort was revived this year by a young feminist activist’s petition. Jill Piebiak, 28, garnered 70,000 signatures which increased pressure on Conservative lawmakers to back a bill introduced by a left-winged member of Parliament.

In the U.S., sales taxes are levied state by state: California carves out sales-tax exemptions for some health products and "necessities of life" (including candy), but not feminine hygiene products. (See the list of exemptions here.)

"There are exemptions which include food and prescription drugs but not over-the-counter drugs [for example]," explained Venus Stromberg, spokesperson for the California Board of Equalization which oversees tax governance. 

Weiss-Wolf estimates $35 million in revenue would be lost if feminine hygiene products were exempted, but she argues adding sales tax on luxury goods such as lattes would more than make up for the difference.

What is the rationale for items exempt from sales tax? Why hasn't there been a #NoTaxOnTampons campaign in California? Do you see Playtex as more worthy of an exemption than Doritos and Twix bars? Is this a gender-based tax that discriminates against women?


Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, Director of Special Projects, Brennan Center for Justice, New York University; Weiss-Wolf penned  “New York, time to shelve the tax on tampons"

Venus Stromberg, Spokesperson, California Board of Equalization, she tweets @VenusStromberg

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