By Tianna Mosby
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – With momentum from the #MeToo movement, several women’s rights groups are supporting legislative calls to remove the sales tax on feminine hygiene products.
Planned Parenthood, the Virginia Menstrual Equity Coalition and other organizations have been posting on social media, circulating petitions and attending General Assembly meetings to show their support for the idea.
“It’s frustrating that such common-sense legislation is struggling to survive,” said Holly Seibold, a member of the coalition.
Three bills before the General Assembly would exempt products such as tampons, menstrual cups and sanitary napkins and pads from the sales tax:
- HB 152, introduced by Del. Kaye Kory, D-Fairfax
- HB 24, sponsored by Del. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax, who dubbed it “The Dignity Act”
- HB 448, filed by Del. Debra Rodman, D-Henrico
Boysko also is sponsoring HB 25, which would add menstrual supplies to Virginia’s three-day, back-to-school “sales tax holiday” each August.
Kory said she believes women should not have to pay taxes for a necessity item. All of the bills have been referred to the House Finance Committee.
This is not the first time a “tampon tax” bill has appeared in the General Assembly. But the issue may have more momentum in light of the national conversation about sexual harassment, gender equity and other issues. Moreover, the House of Delegates now has 28 women members – up from 17 last year.
Those factors have generated optimism that the General Assembly may remove the sales tax on feminine hygiene products.
“This is a fairness issue,” Boysko said. “These products need to be more affordable.”
Last year, she introduced a similar measure – HB 1593. In 2016, Del. Mark Keam, D-Fairfax, also sponsored a bill to remove the “tampon tax” – HB 952. Each year, the proposal was tabled by a subcommittee of the House Finance Committee.
Opponents of the legislation worry that it will cost government coffers millions of dollars.
The sales tax rate is 6 percent in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads and 5.3 percent elsewhere in the state. Many retail items – including medicine, eyeglasses and firewood – are exempt from the tax.
With stores charging up to $9 for a box of 36 tampons, women will spend more than $2,000 on feminine hygiene products during their lifetimes. Removing the sales tax would save Virginia women at least $100. However, it would cost the state at least $4.5 million the first year and more than $5.5 million in 2024, the Virginia Department of Taxation said.
According to the Tax Foundation, a nonprofit think tank, 14 states do not tax feminine hygiene products. Nine specifically exempt them – Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Connecticut will join this list July 1. The other five – Alaska, Delaware, New Hampshire, Montana and Oregon – do not have a sales tax.
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Making Tampons Available in Schools and Prisons
The sales tax isn’t the only concern regarding feminine hygiene products. Legislators have introduced bills to address these other issues:
- HB 1434, sponsored by Del. Mark Keam, D-Fairfax, would ensure that students in grades six through 12 have access to free tampons and pads in school.
- HB 83, sponsored by Del. Kaye Kory, D-Fairfax, would provide feminine hygiene products to female prisoners and inmates for free.
On Wednesday, supporters of those proposals met with legislators. Holly Seibold, a member of the Virginia Menstrual Equity Coalition, said the meeting was “well received with bipartisan support.”
But school officials expressed concerns about HB 1434. Officials of Fairfax County Public Schools fear the requirement would cost the district $500,000 a year, Seibold said.