Eight members of Utah's 11-member, all-male panel for the house revenue and taxation committee voted Wednesday against a bill that would make feminine hygiene products, incontinence pads, and children's diapers tax-free. Their logic, according to the Associated Press, was that "they want to make the tax system predictable" and "subjective variations on what is or is not exempt could do just the opposite."
Sales tax is complicated and varies state by state, but it originated during the Great Depression as a way to generate income by taxing non-necessary items. What "non-necessary" means to lawmakers is highly variable and inconsistent, however. For example, North Dakota and Connecticut do not tax incontinence pads, but they tax tampons. In California, candy is exempt from a sales tax, as are incontinence creams and washes, but tampons are not.
As women know all too well, personal hygiene products are not luxury items and should not be taxed as if they are. Even President Barack Obama weighed in on the subject in an interview with YouTube star Ingrid Nilsen. "I have to tell you—I have no idea why states would tax these as luxury items," he said when Nilsen asked him why 40 states still tax feminine hygiene products. "I suspect it's because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed," he said.
Since activists in the U.S. began calling attention to the issue, some states, like California, are considering legislation to drop the tax on personal hygiene products. In Wisconsin, one lawmaker has even proposed offering feminine hygiene products for free in public buildings. After all, tampons are as necessary as toilet paper.
Democratic Rep. Susan Duckworth, who submitted the bill, seems to know the battle she is up against. "A lot of times it can take two, three or four years, and we have to be persistent and consistent," she said.
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