Denver Just Passed a No-Tampon-Tax Bill. Where Else Have Such Taxes Been Lifted?

One study suggests such bans are especially helpful to low-income women.
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Denver's city council voted unanimously on Tuesday to remove menstrual products—such as tampons, pads, and cups—from the city's sales tax. The products will be classified as "medically necessary." A state sales tax will still apply. In 2017, a no-tampon-tax bill was introduced in the Colorado state legislature, but it's been postponed indefinitely.

Over the past few years, many states have moved to get rid of what advocates call the tampon tax. The District of Columbia and 10 states now exempt menstrual products from their sales taxes. Five of those states started doing so in the last three years, and Virginia has an exemption that'll take effect in 2020.

At least one other city has moved to cut tampon taxes on its own, like Denver: Chicago exempted menstrual products from sales taxes before Illinois did.

Proponents of cutting the tampon tax argue there should be no sales tax on feminine products because people who menstruate must buy them, and so a sales tax amounts to an unfair burden on mostly girls and women. In addition, most states don't tax groceries and medications because they're considered necessities. Menstrual products should count as medically necessary too, proponents say.

Exempting menstrual products may especially help low-income women. One study of New Jersey's exemption—the only empirical study of tampon taxes that I found—concluded that low-income menstrual-products buyers got a bigger benefit than high-income buyers. And girls and women are more likely to live below the poverty line than boys and men, especially during their menstruating years, Bloomberg found.

On the other side, the Tax Foundation, a think tank, argues that removing tampon taxes only means higher taxes on other products in the long run, because states have to make up for the lost revenue. In 2016 in California, for example, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed sales-tax exemptions for menstrual products and diapers, saying the state can't afford to consider new tax breaks outside of the budget-balancing process.

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