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Tax-free tampons in Texas?


 Think about it: we've gone from this to Texas lawmakers discussing a tampon tax exemption.

The movement to exempt tampons and other feminine hygiene products from sales and use tax is about to get a lot bigger — Texas-size, in fact.

A handful of states already provide an exemption from sales tax for feminine hygiene products: Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Connecticut, Illinois, and New York enacted tampon tax exemptions in 2016, and the District of Columbia is poised to do the same in 2017. Similar exemptions were considered but ultimately rejected in California (approved by the legislature, vetoed by the governor), Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin (learn more about taxing essentials and the movement to buck that trend).

To date, the only states to approve such an exemption are north of the Mason-Dixon Line. That could soon change. Six — six! — Texas lawmakers have filed bills to end the sales and use tax on feminine health products. Five of the six bills are sponsored by Democrats: Senator Sylvia Garcia (Houston), and Reps. Carol Alvarado (Houston), Ryan Guillen (Rio Grande City), Donna Howard (Austin), and Eddie Rodriguez (Austin). Republican Rep. Drew Springer (Muenster) joins them. All of the lawmakers said they’d been approached by constituents who heard that other states had opted to exempt these products (Star-Telegram).

Each of the bills, listed below, propose an exemption for “feminine hygiene products,” defined as “tampons, panty liners, sanitary napkins, and other similar tangible personal property sold for the principal purposed of feminine hygiene in connection with the menstrual cycle.” All have an effective date of September 1, 2017.

  • HB 55 (Guillen)
  • HB 219 (Howard)
  • HB 232 (Alvarado)
  • HB 410 (Springer)
  • SB 129 (Garcia)
  • SB 162 (Rodriguez)

Possible opposition

The biggest obstacle to the proposed exemption is fiscal. According to Kevin Lyons of the Texas Comptroller’s office, an exemption for feminine hygiene products could cost the state $19.3 million in 2018 and $20.4 million in 2019. That could be a tough sell given the state’s modest growth rate in recent years, and “what promises to be a tight-fisted legislative session kicking off in January” (Texas Tribune).

Changes in product taxability can be exciting. They can also cause headaches for retailers struggling to remain sales and use tax compliant. Tax automation software facilitates compliance in all states. Learn more.

photo credit: classic_film 1965 Ad, Pursettes Tampons, Pretty Girl in Various Fashions, Swimsuit, Sportswear, Dress 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.