Utah has decided to become the next state to vote to exempt menstrual products from sales taxes. On Thursday, the legislation passed the bill and will shortly be signed by Governor Gary Herbert.
Fighting against, what is known as the “Tampon Tax” has a long difficult history in the US state. This has been introduced for four solid years in the legislator as a stand-alone bill. The exemption was killed each time in the committee and never reached the legislative floor for a vote.
This exemption is about to go into law as just one item in Utah’s huge tax reform bill which passed in a special legislative session last week. The bill has met with a lot of criticism for regressive factors including reinstating the sales tax on food and groceries for those who are living in low-income via the impractical annual food credit.
On the other hand, it has received praise for creating Utah’s first earned income tax credit.
Overall, Utah is trailing the nation in policies that support women. A study in 2019 ranked Utah in last place, 50 out of 50, for gender equality, on policies for education and health, workplace environment, and political empowerment.
On top of that, Utah has an enormous wage gap as women earn 70 cents on the dollar in comparison to what men make and 10 cents lower than the national average. Utah is one of the states with the lowest number of women in government leadership.
Statistically, Utah has a major imbalance in economic and political power which makes it very difficult for issues like the “Tampon Tax” to make it to the table or considered as a major reform bill.
It seems Utah legislators are starting to recognize and respond to the increasing demand with vocal and bipartisan movements for menstrual equity. On top of that, the tampon tax made headlines, worldwide.
This tax has been eliminated in many nations from Germany to India and just this past week, Rwanda. This issue even took up time this past fall in the Brexit debates.
In the United States, a 2015 petition gained momentum nationwide in the 40 states that have addressed the issue. Seven succeeded in permanently scrap the tax including New York, Connecticut, Florida, and Illinois who passed legislation.
Ohio has been the latest to jump on the bandwagon which will go into effect in 2020. Nevada took the vote to the people with a statewide ballot in 2018. Additionally, in 2019, Rhode Island’s exemption for menstrual products became a part of the state budget.
As of 2020, California will start exempting menstrual products but only on a temporary basis as it’s already been written into the state’s two-year budget.
The Utah legislature’s enthusiasm to end the tampon tax is acknowledging another fact. Absolutely no state, including Utah, can defend state-sanctioned discrimination. State leaders are well aware they must avoid the expense of being taken to court.
The Tax-Free Period is a national coalition and has been joined by major law firms, leading academics, local counsel, nonprofit advocates, and law students which have leveraged legal challengers for taxation of menstruation.
The coalition has put governors, attorney generals, legislators, and tax commissioners on notice. States have the option to either defend laws and regulations that impose punitive and discriminatory taxes or step up a change in their old, unconstitutional laws.
A sales tax on menstrual products is not just wrong, but is unfair, in other words, it’s downright illegal.
Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the University of California Berkeley Law School and leading Constitutional Law scholar argued that the tampon tax amounts to sex-biased discrimination in violation of equal protection at both the state and federal levels.
The inclusion of the tampon tax exemption among other provisions in the Utah tax overhaul is not just about a smart policy, a concession to activists, or a political trade-off, it’s realizing that this tampon tax is unlawful! The menstrual product exemption belongs deeply in place in the sales tax reform.
Even though Utah has gained a reputation for not treating women fairly, the leaders understand and have taken steps forward. To lawmakers in Utah, those who introduced the bill 4-years ago, and those who put aside their politics, they finally got this bill passed because it’s the right thing to do. So Congratulations Utah!
To other states that still have a tax on tampons, it’s time to get out of the Dark Ages and join the rest of the country.