Republicans Don’t Want to Exempt Menstrual Products from Taxes in Tennessee — Even Just For One Weekend

Supermajority Education Fund

February 20, 2020

Every year, the state of Tennessee has a tax holiday; this year, the holiday goes from Jul. 31 through Aug. 2. During that weekend, specific goods, which have been designated by the state, can be purchased tax-free. This year, Tennessee Republicans are pushing back on a proposal to include menstrual and sexual health products in the 2020 tax holiday. 

On Feb. 11, Sen. Sara Kyle introduced SB 1724, a bill that would ensure tampons, pads, liners, cups, and douches are excluded from tax during the exemption period. 

“I come to you today with a very small plea: that we take the tax off these products for just one weekend,” Kyle said. “I am urging a very small amount of dollars, but it sends a large signal that our state is taking a very important step of recognizing these products as a necessity and are an essential part of women’s health.”

Over the past few years, Americans have become aware of the tampon tax, which is the “luxury goods” tax that is added to health products for women. In 2016, YouTube personality Ingrid Nilson told then-president, Barack Obama, about the tampon tax, of which he was not aware. 

“I have to tell you, I have no idea why states would tax these as luxury items,” Obama told Nilson. “I suspect it’s because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed.”

Eight states have eliminated sales tax on menstrual hygiene products. As of Jan. 1, all menstrual hygiene products and diapers are now exempt from sales tax in California, and, the same day, Virginia implemented a much lower sales tax rate of 2.5 percent on the same products.

Although the tampon tax might prove annoying to everyone who has a period, it presents a considerable barrier for low-income people who need to buy tampons, pads, or other products for their periods. A survey published in February 2019 by Obstetrics & Gynecology reported that nearly two-thirds of low-income women in St. Louis said they couldn’t afford menstrual products in the previous year, 2018. They reported that they used cloth, rags, tissues, or toilet paper to make do. Additionally, two-thirds of organizations that help low-income people in the area said that menstrual products were a need of their clients. 

Shreya Pokhrel, an Advocates for Youth student organizer at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told Supermajority News that there are some important things that communities can do to help low-income residents who can’t afford menstrual products. 

“In my organization, Planned Parenthood Generation Action at UAB (the University of Alabama at Birmingham), we successfully organized for the installation of free menstrual hygiene dispensers in the majority of the female and gender-neutral restrooms on campus,” Pokhrel said. “I would encourage communities to organize menstrual hygiene drives with local organizations, advocate for dispenser installation on college campuses, and encourage private businesses to place a basket of free products in restrooms.”