Washington recognizes “tax gap between genders,” exempts tampons
- May 26, 2020 | Gail Cole
Tampons and other feminine hygiene products will no longer be subject to Washington sales and use tax starting July 1, 2020.
Earlier this spring, the Washington Legislature found feminine hygiene products to be “a necessity for most females in the state,” rather than “a discretionary purchase.” Furthermore, “they are a necessity for which there is no alternative for females to maintain proper health and hygiene.”
According to Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5147, taxing such necessities creates “a tax gap” that requires “females to potentially pay more of their income to state taxes.” Thus, Washington will permanently exempt the sale of feminine hygiene products as of July 1.
These products are already exempt in Oregon, where there’s no general sales tax. And they’re currently exempt from California sales and use tax. However, California’s exemption is temporary and will expire effective January 1, 2022.
The Left Coast isn’t alone in ending the so-called pink tax. Feminine hygiene products became subject to a reduced rate of sales and use tax (2.5%) in Virginia on January 1, 2020, and exempt from Ohio sales and use tax on April 1, 2020. They’re also exempt in the following states:
Instructions for retailers
According to the Washington Department of Revenue, “feminine hygiene products” refers to menstrual cups, sanitary napkins, tampons, “or any other similar products sold at retail designed specifically to catch menstrual flow either internally or externally.”
For qualifying products, retailers in Washington should claim a feminine hygiene products deduction from retail sales tax. There’s no corresponding deduction under the retailing business and occupation (B&O) tax.
The new exemption must be honored by in-state retailers as well as out-of-state retailers required to collect and remit Washington sales tax. Under Washington’s economic nexus law, remote retailers with more than $100,000 in cumulative gross receipts from retail sales and taxable services in the previous or current calendar year must register to collect and remit sales tax.
Avalara’s free sales tax risk assessment can help retailers determine whether they have an obligation to collect sales tax in Washington or other states.
Instructions for consumers
Any consumers who pay retail sales tax on qualifying products on or after July 1, 2020, may request a refund from the seller.
In the event a seller won’t provide a refund, consumers may apply for a sales tax refund directly from the Washington Department of Revenue.