On March 6, 2019, NPR’s Planet Money had a show Tampons: That Bloody Sales Tax that included an interview with attorney Zoe Salzman, talking about her work that contributed to New York’s repeal of the sales tax on menstrual hygiene products. Currently, 35 states retain some form of the tampon tax, although many states are expected to consider repeal legislation in the near future.
Professor Emily Gold Waldman and I have argued in The Unconstitutional Tampon Tax, 53 U. Richmond L. Rev. 339 (2019), that the sales tax on menstrual hygiene products violates the Equal Protection Clause. Professor Carla Spivack and I have explained in Tampon Taxes, Discrimination and Human Rights, 2017 Wisc. L. Rev. 491, how the value added tax and sales tax on menstrual hygiene products also implicate a variety of human rights, and might be ripe for challenge in an international tribunal.
The NPR podcast also featured comments from Nicole Kaeding of the Tax Foundation. She represented a voice in favor of retention of the tampon tax and widening the tax base generally.
You know, in my view, a state would be much better off to have a broad sales tax that applies to, you know, all final consumption. You avoid these sorts of, you know, picking between different product classes. It would make for a much more efficient sales tax.
Tax scholar Miranda Stewart (Melbourne) has made similar arguments (here). I don’t disagree that it would be reasonable (and non-discriminatory) to remove all sales tax exemptions, but I also think that such a change is politically both unfeasible–no one will want to give up tax exemptions on medicine, for example–and undesirable, because it is regressive.
But glad to see more press coverage of the issue in any event.