Enacting a Change to Taxes on Feminine Products

June 2015 “tampon tax” map, used with permission from Washington Post. (Courtesy of Fusion)

In the last couple weeks, I noticed my receipt for tampons from Goucher’s Bookstore included a 6% sales tax. Like most college bookstores, Goucher’s Bookstore is run by Barnes and Noble. This surprised me because I knew that Maryland’s state law now exempts feminine hygiene products from sales tax. I felt urged to do something about this because I feel it is unjust for women to be taxed on these products in general. The Maryland’s government’s website for taxes, Comptroller of Maryland, states that they exempt feminine hygienic products, sanitary napkins and tampons from a sales tax. The law went into effect in July 2017, and was enacted by the Department of Legislative Services. When I brought this up to the cashier, he contacted a representative of Barnes and Noble. The representative replied that they were unaware about this policy change and subsequently updated the system to comply with the new law for all the stores in Maryland. Within a week, the cashier was also able to remove the tax from the products. It was an issue that was easily resolved. He informed me by saying, “Once the register is updated, it takes the tax off and it won’t process the item anymore as a taxable item.”
The pain and effort to maintain personal hygiene caused by women’s menstrual cycles is taxing enough. As a Goucher student, Allie Sklarew explained her opinion on the topic. “I would feel like if I was taxed for these products, it’s a complete insult to women, saying something that is natural to your body is somehow a horrible thing.”  Before I noticed this issue at Goucher, I had already begun research on feminine hygienic tax issues. A Washington Post article titled, “The ‘tampon tax,’ explained” stated, “tampons (and similar products) are tax-exempt in only a handful of states, including Maryland and New Jersey”. The image displays certain states that exempts feminine by sales tax (Fusion, 2015).
When it becomes a woman’s time of the month, it is necessary to purchase products that assist with menstrual hygiene. “Its not a choice to have our menstrual cycle so to be charged is unethical and unjust.” Goucher student Maria Kyriakakos states on the matter, “I think just having that natural occurrence doesn’t mean that we should be priced.” To buy feminine hygienic products are under no choice and menstrual health care is pricey as well as limited in access. Rewire states that, “Feminine products are a $2 billion industry in the United States alone.” Purchasing these various products, including tampons and sanitary napkins, are a monthly necessity, not a luxury.
The amount for these products adds up. As USA Today states, “The average woman spends $150-$300 a year on feminine hygiene disposables.” Over time, the hefty expenses and lack of accessibility can cause significant health issues. Homeless, incarcerated, or low-income women are prone to the most suffering. The price of poor menstrual hygiene can be devastating, even deadly. The New York Times states that, “It is linked to high rates of cervical cancer in India; in developing countries, infections caused by use of filthy, unwashed rags are rampant.” Luckily enough Maryland exempts these products from the sales tax. Most states don’t, and thankfully this issue with Goucher’s bookstore was quickly resolved. Being able to make a change concerning this issue at campus shows that we can all make steps towards change when faced with injustice by utilizing assertiveness, curiosity, and research.

Works Cited
Comptroller of Maryland. (n.d.). Medicine and Medical Equipment. Retrieved October 22, 2017
Larimer, S. (2016, January 08). The ‘tampon tax,’ explained. Retrieved October 22, 2017
Maryland General Assembly, D. (2017). Sales and Use Tax – Hygienic Aids – Exemption. Retrieved October 22, 2017
Meyer, Z., & McDermott, M. (2017, March 27). Tampons are out among younger women. Why feminine hygiene is newest consumer battlefield. Retrieved October 22, 2017
O’hara, M. E. (2015, April 21). ‘Robin Danielson Act’ Would Mandate Independent Testing on Tampon Safety. Retrieved October 22, 2017
Wolf, J. W. (2015, August 11). America’s Very Real Menstrual Crisis. Retrieved October 22, 2017

Leah grew up to appreciate traveling as she was born in Hungary and calls Taiwan home. Her immersion in various cultures around the world since she was born has made her quite adventurous, especially when it comes to food. She is an Art History Major, who aspires to use creativity in beneficial ways; either through education or museum studies.

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