Some US states debate tampons tax

2016-02-10 18:56

Salt Lake - An international debate over whether to tax tampons and other feminine hygiene products has made its way to some US states like conservative Utah, where a bill is set to be heard by a committee made of only men.

Such taxes penalise women for their biology, some critics say. That perspective has picked up momentum, with at least five US states getting rid of taxes on such products.

Most states don't tax prescription drugs or food, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Feminine hygiene products should be considered necessities, not luxuries, said Stephanie Pitcher with the Utah Women's Coalition.

"Having a period is not a choice for women," she said.

Pennsylvania and Minnesota are among states that have eliminated these taxes. A handful of other states, including California, have seen similar proposals brought before their legislatures this year.

President Barack Obama said in an interview with a YouTube blogger last month that he had no idea why feminine hygiene products were taxed.

Last year, Canada removed taxes on feminine hygiene products after receiving unanimous political support. Britain set the tax on sanitary products at 5%, the lowest possible level, and leaders have considered doing away with it.

In Utah, state representative Susan Duckworth's proposal also calls for making adult incontinence products and children's diapers tax-free. She hopes that by making her plan broader, it will earn more support.

The proposal could save residents who use these products at least $30 each year in taxes, Duckworth said.

But estimates from Utah's legislative budget staff say removing the sales tax on the products would reduce revenue to the general fund by over $1m next year.

Billy Hesterman with the Utah Taxpayers Association said eliminating the tax might mean lawmakers raise the overall tax rate.

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