The Gender Gap Series: Tampons - That Bloody Sales Tax
You're listening to n._p._r. Everybody we are back with another episode in our series the gender gap this week. We're taking another look at some of our favorite stories about women and the economy in the last three episodes. We have explored how much women earn work and invest relative to men but today we take a look at how much women pay for stuff relative demand so stacey yeah in spanish. We have this phrase. It's maybe on under is it will give you a guy mess in english is i got a bissett from and that is the one that comes every month which is really creepy wait. Is this like a visit from your aunt. Flo excepts in spanish aunt. Flo is a man yes he yeah what would you do. Would i is or why we did that. Somebody is pissed at andrea exactly exactly but anyway so <hes> flow in an fellow was looking visit for mant flow your period period there is no reason for us has to be squeamish right. I mean literally more than half the planet deals with it for like forty years of their lives and of course you know to deal with our very natural friend andreas. We need equipment right. You gotta have tampons and pads and menstrual cups or other things to get through. The day and tampons are lot. It's like ten bucks twelve bucks for a box of twenty and here's the thing these products are subject to sales tax which might not sound like a big thing. You know we pay for other things as well but many products similar to tampons or health related items have a medical tax exception things like dandruff shampoo <music> aspirin foot powder and condoms and so you know understandably a lot of people say that's not fair if you're going to give condoms and aspirin and prouder tax exemption tampon should have tax exemption to this is the indicator from planet money. I'm stacey vanek. Smith and i'm going to do today on the show ending the tampons tampons acce. How much does it cost women and what is the cost to end. This message comes from n._p._r. Sponsor fundraise innovating the way people can invest in real estate. They'd fundraise makes it simple to build a portfolio of high quality real estate affordably visit fund rise dot com slash built and get your first six months of advisory serie fees waived support also comes from google domains google domains helps make your business idea a reality with the tools and partners for building your your website like a pro and premium security features included for free make it happen at domains dot google slash n._p._r. Sales tax wchs most people in this country pay sales tax on most of the things they buy. It's a big source of state revenue has been ever since the great depression and each state of course chooses what it sales tax tax will be and some of the products that will have sales tax. Some items like food or water that are seen as necessary to survival are not subject to this tax prescription. Listen and nonprescription drugs are also exempt medicines like aspirin dayquil or viagra also medical equipment and supplies which can be things like chapstick chapstick or goss- chapstick is tax exempt yep. That's interesting <hes> but you know constanza what does not fall into the medical supply category in many the states most states tampons tampons also pads and cups in all of the menstrual hygiene products and this is where the term tampon tax exp began. This is a matter of personal health and also puck health really i and yet because it's a women's health issue. It is instantly politicized. That's always salesman back. In two thousand sixteen. She filed a lawsuit. In new york to eliminate the sales tax on metro products zoe salesman and her team argued these products aren't necessary for women and they should be tax exempt then the r- medical supplies which are defined as supplies using the cure mitigation treatment or prevention of illnesses says or disease again that's really broad and one example the department of tax gave was things like bandages gauze and dressings and so those right alright adams that are used to staunch the flow of blood from the human body and tampons and pads as well as cops and panty liners those are used to staunch the flow of blood from the uterus so again clearly these items have to fit within that definition zoe made her case and the new york legislature took notice and in fact passed a bill back in two two thousand sixteen to exempt feminine products in new york from sales tax so that extra cost here in new york and stands up. We do not pay it anymore. Yeah but many other women in other states do pay it and study published this year by the american college of obstetricians and gynecologists found that two out of three low income women in the u._s. couldn't afford metro products at least once a year and nearly half of them struggle to buy both food and metro hygiene products over over the last year where you really are budgeting down to the dollar every month. That makes a big difference. Those women also tend to buy these products in smaller sizes and smaller packages and and in places like convenience stores where the prices are usually higher so all of that compounds to really make a really direct impact on their budget in fact. There's the second omic research that the tax break on tampons really benefits low income people. That's based on consumer data. After new jersey's tampon tax was repealed back in two thousand in five research showed that by eliminating the tax in made products cheaper and more accessible to lower income women but some people say the tampon on tax needs to stay but in general. I think that the sales tax is really one of the best ways for a state to raise revenue. This is nicole kaeding the vice president of federal projects at the tax foundation a think tank that studies tax policy she says picking and choosing products to be taxed or not tax is problematic for a lot of reasons first of all it can mean less money any for states they won't have enough money to fund public policies or the programs they want to fund and it can also mean that states have to increase other types of taxes to get that funding back so if the sales sales tax applies to fewer products the sales tax on the products that are left goes up nicole things an easy way to fix this issue is having a sales tax on everything no exemptions which by the way that can lower the overall tax rate for every product including tampons so when you start moving into these this world of exemptions sections you start adding complexity because you have to define what is and is not a qualified good under the exemption you know in my view a state would be much better off to have a broad sales tax that applies to all final consumption you avoid these sorts of picking between different product classes <hes> it would make for a much more efficient sales tax back in two thousand sixteen california governor. Jerry brown vetoed a bill the plan to eliminate the state's tampon tax. He argued that by not taxing metro. Products california lose up to twenty million dollars in annual taxes. X.'s and the governor has a point here new york where we eliminated the tax on minstrel products. We're losing about fourteen million dollars year in las tax revenue of course this isn't just an economic issue. It's a political issue to last year for example nevada voted to make minstrel products tax exempt nicole also expects more states to push for legislation impasse bills that would repeal the tampons access here like michigan georgia and ohio and of course california is looking at the issue yet again. Andrea is coming to town. We have two big developments. California and rhode island passed a budget package that exempts tampons john's administration products from state sales tax. It's worth pointing out that these tax exemptions could be changed in future budgets but for now the women in california and rhode island will get a little tax break on their tampons and i have a fun little update for us. Well okay member. How could i forget race well. It's definitely the weirdest euphemism out there for your menstruation. Hey there's actually over five thousand different ones all over the world wow so if if you have a really weird or funny one oh yes send them along then them along <hes> instagram us or send us an email. We would love to read them. Today's update was produced by rachel cohn. Our original episode was produced by me and our editor is paddy hirsch. Our current internist emily lang and the indicator is a production of n._p._r.