Thanks to public pressure, Canada just became the first country to axe the “tampon tax”—the sales tax imposed on tampons, sanitary napkins, and other feminine hygiene products. Now, more and more women in countries like the U.K., Australia—and the U.S.—are demanding their governments do the same.
Of course, sales tax in the U.S. is complicated, since it varies from state to state. In order to relieve all American women of paying a fee for their periods, all 50 states would have to slash the sales tax on feminine hygiene products.
For those uninitiated in the country’s tax codes (lucky you!), most states tax all “tangible personal property” but make exemptions for select “necessities” (non-luxury items). Things that are considered necessities usually include groceries, food stamp purchases, medical purchases (prescriptions, prosthetics, some over-the-counter drugs), clothes (in some states), and agriculture supplies. The lists of exemptions vary from state to state.
Tampons, however, are rarely considered a necessity by state governments, and most states do not allow exemptions for them (nor do they even list them in their tax codes). Yet as every woman who has ever gotten her period knows, feminine hygiene products are not a choice; they’re a required part of being a woman. And the costs for these products can add up.
Despite growing calls for tampon taxes to be eliminated in this country, we were unable to find a comprehensive listing of the states that do (and don’t) charge women for having a period. So we embarked on looking up every state’s tax code and reached out to every state’s Department of Revenue to see were they stand—and compiled the map above.
Sadly, only five states have actively made decisions not to tax tampons: Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and New Jersey. The rest either don’t have a sales tax or don’t consider tampons a “necessity.”
Notably, some states don’t tax items such as pregnancy tests (Colorado), disposable heating pads (Vermont), or incontinence pads for bladder dysfunction (North Dakota, Connecticut)—but still tax tampons. Other states such as Alabama even have “tax holidays” in the summer when everyday items normally subject to sales tax (clothes, computers, art supplies, and books) are duty free for a day or weekend—yet feminine hygiene products are still taxed.
That’s right: Even on holidays designed to give people a break on commonly bought items, tampons do not make the cut. And while diapers for bladder dysfunction are considered a necessity (which, to be sure, they are), tampons and sanitary pads are not. What’s the other option—bleed everywhere?
“Tampons and pads are used for feminine hygiene and not for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of feminine diseases,” a rep for the Idaho State Tax Commission told Fusion in an email. While no one should equate menstruation with a “disease,” feminine hygiene products deserve more credit.