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Florida lawmaker seeks sales tax exemption for diapers, again


 There's a renewed effort in Florida to exempt diapers.

Senator Lauren Book is again leading an effort to exempt diapers and incontinence products from Florida sales tax. Under her latest bill, SB 56, the exemption would take effect Jan. 1, 2019.

A typical infant can go through more than 4,200 diapers in the first year, at a cost of approximately $800 - $900. Exempting them from sales tax could mean annual savings of roughly $70. While not large, Book says it would help keep children in low-income families in diapers. It could also improve their health. As she told the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, “Families living in poverty tend to make diapers last longer by changing them less frequently, which is more than uncomfortable. It’s unhealthy, and can cause serious and costly medical issues.” Only a handful of states specifically exempt diapers.

While fewer elderly people than children live in poverty in Florida — 10 versus 52 percent — those who do may be equally strained by the cost of incontinence products.

Should states exempt essential products?

The nation has seen numerous efforts to exempt specific products from sales tax in recent years. Taxes on tampons, in particular, have come under fire. Those in favor of exempting diapers and tampons say it’s wrong to tax items that are essential to the health and well-being of particular groups of people, like women and children.

Not all agree. Many argue that taxes should be neutral and, ideally, broad. As the Tax Foundation notes in its Principles of Sound Tax Policy, “The primary purpose of taxes is to raise needed revenue, not micromanage the economy. The tax system should not favor certain industries, activities, or products.”

Of course, one would be hard-pressed to argue that tax policies don’t favor certain activities, industries, or products. At the very least, many lawmakers and lobbyists work toward that end. Among them, Sen. Book.

The Florida legislature approved a sales tax exemption for tampons and other feminine hygiene products earlier this year — it’s set to take effect Jan. 1, 2018. However, a proposed exemption for diapers was cut from the final version of the bill, which received Gov. Rick Scott’s signature in late May. Additional efforts to exempt diapers and incontinence products (SB 252 and HB 71) died in committee earlier this year.

No matter what’s behind them, changes in product taxability complicate sales and use tax compliance for businesses. Tax automation software helps simplify it. Learn more.


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.