Law makes menstrual hygiene products tax-free in CA

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As part of SB 92, people in California will no longer have to pay sales tax on menstrual hygiene products until 2022.

Under the law — which came into effect Jan. 1 — menstrual hygiene products ⁠will be exempt from sales and use taxes. According to the law, menstrual hygiene products are defined as tampons, sanitary napkins, menstrual cups and menstrual sponges.

“Even though menstruation is not a choice, California’s government profits over $20 million a year in taxes paid for these basic health necessities,” said Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, who authored the bill, in a press release. “This was the last gender-specific tax in our state tax code until this year.”

At the time of the law’s approval by California Gov. Gavin Newsom in June 2019, the Associated Press reported that it could result in a loss of $55 million from the state’s budget. According to SB 92, the state Department of Finance would be responsible for estimating the total dollar amount of revenue that would be lost if not otherwise exempted by the law.

The bill was first passed in 2016 but was vetoed by former governor Jerry Brown. After five years of lobbying for the removal of the tampon tax, co-founder of Period Equity Jennifer Weiss-Wolf said it was a “compromise” to include the tax exemption in the state budget.

“This bill is significant because it shows the power of advocacy,” said ASUC Senator Derek Imai in an email. “I really admire the growth of the PERIOD Movement among so many other advocacy movements, and this bill shows that raising your voice and standing up for what you believe in will pay off!”

The bill will make it easier to access menstrual hygiene products, as well as make them more affordable, especially for marginalized communities, according to Weiss-Wolf.

“We are glad to be inching in the right direction, but we are ready to stop inching and eliminate the tax permanently,” Weiss-Wolf said. “Until the tax is permanently gone, this is only a halfway step.”

Many period advocacy groups, however, consider the tax exemption to be a way of de-stigmatizing and recognizing the need for menstrual hygiene. Advocacy groups also argue that the tampon tax is discriminatory, citing that items such as Viagra are not taxed because they are considered “medical necessities,” but menstrual hygiene products are not, according to Imai.

Allison Lu, campus sophomore and president and founder of UC Berkeley’s PERIOD chapter, said the movement was “invisible” because it was not addressed in legislation. Now, eight other states, both Republican and Democrat, have made the tax exemption permanent, Weiss-Wolf said.

“I’m happy women are finally gaining some kind of equality in the legislative body and this law sets the precedent for everything to come,” Lu said. “It’s a marginal shift, but an important one for the big picture.”

Contact Maria Young at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @maria_myoung.