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New York tampon tax exemption: trendsetter or outlier?


 New York will be next state to exempt feminine hygiene products from sales tax.

Update 7.22.2016: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed the legislation exempting feminine hygiene products from state and local sales taxes, calling it "a regressive tax on essential products that women have had to pay for far too long." He  added that "lifting it is a matter of social and economic justice." The exemption is set to take effect on September 1, 2016.

Of the 45 states (and District of Columbia) with a general sales and use tax, only five currently exempt feminine hygiene products. New York is about to become the sixth.

The New York legislature gave final approval to a measure “exempting certain basic necessities from sales and use taxes” on May 25, 2016. The exemption applies to “feminine hygiene products, including but not limited to, sanitary napkins and tampons.”

Bill sponsor Senator Sue Serino (R) hailed the legislature’s unanimous approval of her measure: “There are many issues that simply transcend politics and a unanimous vote in both houses tells you that this is certainly one of them.” The freshman senator said she was “incredibly proud to announce that the infamous ‘tampon tax’ will finally by a thing of the past.”

Governor Cuomo, who has three daughters, has said he agrees the tax should be repealed. The exemption is set to take effect on the first day of the quarter following his signage of the bill.

Change unlikely

Proposed tampon tax exemptions have met with more resistance in several other state legislatures:

  • California AB 1561 has bipartisan support but has been placed in the Assembly’s Revenue and Taxation Committee’s “suspense file.”
  • Connecticut HB 5119 and SB 216 have been in the Joint Committee on Finance, Revenue and Bonding for months.
  • Ohio HB 484 has long been under review by the Ways and Means Committee.
  • Michigan SB 897 and SB 898 are in the Committee on Finance and HB 5234 was sent to the Committee on Tax Policy in January.
  • Mississippi SB 2053 died on the calendar in the Senate after being passed by the House.
  • Utah HB 202 did not make it out of the House.
  • Wisconsin AB 949 failed to pass pursuant to Senate Joint Resolution 1.

Change on the way?

Elsewhere, however, the reaction to proposed exemptions for feminine hygiene products has been more favorable.

The Chicago City passed an ordinance to exempt tampons and sanitary napkins from Chicago’s Home Rule Municipal Retailer’s Occupation Tax (SO2016-705). It has also adopted resolutions (R2016-149 and R2016-92) calling for tampons and sanitary napkins to qualify for the reduced one percent state sales tax rate.

The Council of the District of Columbia introduced an exemption for feminine hygiene products in April (B21-0696). In addition, the Council is considering providing free diapers and feminine hygiene products to homeless families and individuals (B21-0692).

Every new state or local sales and use tax exemption creates compliance burdens for businesses. Avalara’s end-to-end sales and use tax solutions automate compliance and ease the burden. Learn more.

photo credit: BRITISH COLUMBIA 1971 MUNICIPAL EXEMPT plate via photopin (license)


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.