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What Is the Tampon Tax?

The words “tampon” and “tax” are two words generally avoided in everyday conversation. Most people shy away from discussing either topic due to social taboo — or perhaps fear of the unknown. However, the Tampon Tax is a very real issue that many may not even be aware is affecting them on a regular basis.

So, what is the Tampon Tax?

There is no national sales tax. Every state has its own sales tax (or lack thereof), that is left to their discretion. States typically utilize sales taxes to provide revenue, and the tax can apply to consumer purchases of goods or services.

Exemptions are often created within state sales taxes to exempt certain products or services that the state believes are necessities. For most states, medical products and items such as groceries fall into this category. Tampons and other menstrual products, however, tend to get categorized as luxuries, rather than necessities. However, these items are certainly necessary for any woman menstruating to carry on day-to-day life.

The sales tax on these products is commonly referred to as the Tampon Tax and has been the subject of national discussion in recent years, since the rise of the Period Equity movement started by Jennifer Weiss-Wolf and Laura Strausfel.

35 states currently impose the tampon tax, including Arkansas.

It is important to look inward and consider your own state’s regulations on the matter to work toward a broader goal of period equity. In the state of Arkansas, menstrual products are not an exempt medical product within the state’s tax laws, and as such are currently subject to Arkansas’s 6.5% base sales tax.

This implicitly suggests that these menstrual products are not a “necessity” but a “luxury.”

In A.C.A §26-52-406, Arkansas provides a sales tax exemption for “the sale, purchase, or use of prescription drugs by licensed pharmacists, hospitals, or physicians when sold, purchased, or administered for human use.”

A.C.A § 26-52-433 provides an exemption for “rental, sale, or repair of […] disposable medical supplies prescribed by a physician.”

These two exemptions almost provide for the exemption for menstrual products but require that these medical products be prescribed by a licensed pharmacist, hospital, or physician. Of course, menstrual products are not prescription products; they are every day necessities. This means that men have a tax exemption for Viagra when prescribed it, while women pay tax on products they may require every month from the ages of 12 to 50.

This tax may seem harmless on its own, but it disproportionately affects women and can have detrimental effects. The tax on menstrual products reinforces the idea of inequality between men and women even though menstruation is naturally occurring within women for a large portion of their lives. If it is an option to provide an exemption for Viagra and “feedstuffs used for livestock of poultry” (A.C.A §26-52-404), it should be a viable option to provide an exemption for the necessity of menstrual products.

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