Bill Would Exempt Tampons and Pads From Sales Tax in California

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A bill in the California Legislature would make tampons and pads exempt from sales tax. (Kate Raynes-Goldie/flickr)

Tampons and maxi pads might not be the biggest monthly expense women face. Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia says the average cost is about $7 a month. But the Los Angeles-area Democrat says those costs can add up, especially for low-income women. That’s one of the reasons Garcia has written a bill that would exempt tampons and pads from sales tax.

“Individually it may not be a lot, but it’s also how do we start to make this more affordable and lead a discussion," Garcia says. "I talked to a young woman yesterday who was telling me she has to use socks when she can’t afford any of these products.”

Garcia says the bill would cost California more than $20 million a year. But she says it’s not fair that women are taxed on such an essential product. And she says her bill raises larger issues about the gender dynamics in politics.

“If we think about who has been passing laws and regulations in these institutions of power, they’ve been governed by men and so they haven’t thought about it," she says.  "And so maybe if a man got his period, yeah, we would have had this discussion sooner.”

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But Garcia is quick to point out several of her male colleagues have signed on as co-authors to the bill. USC public policy professor Sherry Bebitch Jeffe says that’s a smart move, since the measure would appeal to half of the state’s population.

“Politically I’m not seeing a downside at this point for either Democrats or Republicans," she says.

California is not the only place considering the issue. Canada recently repealed its so-called tampon tax. But efforts to roll back taxes in France and the United Kingdom failed last year.