Opinion | Menstrual products need tax exempt status in Iowa

Moving menstrual products to tax exempt status improves accessibility to period products and corrects a disproportionate tax burden.



The Iowa State Capitol Building is seen on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 in Des Moines. Tuesday marks the second day of the 2021 Iowa legislative session, including the annual State of the State address given by Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Sophie Stover, Opinions Columnist

Iowa brings in $2.5 million from subjecting menstrual products to sales tax, which is only 0.01 percent of the state’s total revenue. A small revenue isn’t worth a sales tax for menstrual products because a tax-exempt status would help alleviate a disproportionate tax burden on women, especially those with lower incomes.

According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, menstrual products are regulated as a medical device. The State of Iowa exempts a wide variety of medical devices from sales tax, but not menstrual products. The 30 states that still tax menstrual products, including Iowa, need to move the items to tax exempt status.

Buying menstrual products isn’t a choice for those of us that have periods. Why would feminine hygiene products be taxed when other necessities like prescriptions are not? Tampons are a necessity for every person that menstruates, and they should not be treated as a luxury item.

A sales tax may seem like a small price to pay on a package of tampons but menstruating for 40 years adds up to thousands of dollars spent on tampons alone. Don’t forget about all the extra costs of maintaining a period like birth control, Midol, menstrual pads, and underwear.

Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, the vice president for development at the Brennan Center for Justice, believes women and lower-income individuals uniquely understand the tampon tax issue. She is correct that those who have a period understand it the most, especially people who struggle to pay for their biological reality.

PERIOD, a nonprofit advocating for menstrual equity with the goal of eliminating period poverty, released a report calling for policy reform to end the tampon tax. According to the survey, one in five teens in the U.S struggle to purchase period products or can’t afford them. The research also showed 84 percent of students have either missed class or know somebody that missed class due to lack of access to adequate menstrual products.

Periods are expensive and removing the tampon tax would greatly affect those struggling to purchase the necessities. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits don’t cover feminine hygiene products either, further exacerbating the difficulties some individuals face in getting the necessary materials.

The Journal of Empirical Legal Studies published a paper in 2018 that provided evidence from New Jersey’s revocation of the tampon tax. According to their study, the tax break for high income consumers is equally distributed with producers. The results showed that removing the tax eliminated a disproportionate tax burden on individuals with lower incomes.

Since the start of the “Tax Free. Period campaign in 2019, only a few states have moved to pass legislation to change the tax status of menstrual products. Members of the Iowa General Assembly have introduced motions to remove sales tax on feminine hygiene products in multiple bills over the last few years, most recently on Feb 2.

Removing sales tax from feminine hygiene products would result in only a small loss in state revenue. Iowa needs to pass this bill to help lift the financial burden on women and lower-income individuals.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.