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California: A Sales Tax Exemption for Women

  • Jan 9, 2016 | Gail Cole

 Should gender-specific products be exempt?

Update 9.14.16: Governor Brown has vetoed AB 1561, so feminine hygiene products remain subject to California sales and use tax. Learn more.

Two lawmakers in California began the 2016 Legislative session with a proposal to exempt feminine hygiene products from sales tax. In so doing, they are echoing a call that has sounded in Australia, Canada, France, Great Britain, and many other parts of the globe.

AB 1561, introduced by Assemblymembers Cristina Garcia (D) and Ling Ling Chang (R) is short and sweet. It seeks to add the following to California’s Revenue and Taxation Code:

There are exempted from the taxes imposed by this part the gross receipts from the sale in this state of, and the storage, use, or other consumption in this state of, sanitary napkins and tampons.

If enacted, tampons and sanitary napkins would join approximately 100 other goods and services that are specifically exempted from California sales and use tax, including:

  • Admission charges
  • “Buddy poppies” and similar lapel pins
  • Custom computer programs
  • Food
  • Ice or dry ice
  • Mailing lists
  • Occasional sales
  • Prescription medicines
  • Vehicles sold to family

In announcing the measure, Garcia said, “This is not insignificant to women, especially poor women on a tight budget who struggle to pay for basic necessities like a box of tampons or pads every month for their adult life. If we can’t make them free we should at least make them more affordable.” Chang said, “Our government is imposing a charge exclusively on women by forcing them to pay extra for the ‘privilege’ of a health necessity.”


Many other items deemed necessary, such as diapers and toilet paper, are taxable in California. Then again, Viagra is exempt.

In Great Britain, consumers pay 5% tax on sanitary products, which is considerably lower than the 20% rate applied to most non-essential consumer goods. However, crocodile and other exotic meats are taxed at a rate of 0%. Read more about the tempestuous tampon tax.

Real money

If feminine hygiene products are exempted in California, the state will lose approximately $20 million in sales tax revenue annually.

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Sales tax rates, rules, and regulations change frequently. Although we hope you'll find this information helpful, this blog is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal or tax advice.
Gail Cole
Avalara Author
Gail Cole
Gail Cole
Avalara Author Gail Cole
Gail began researching and writing about sales tax in 2012 and has been fascinated with it ever since. She has a penchant for uncovering unusual tax facts, and endeavors to make complex sales tax laws more digestible for both experts and laypeople.