MONTPELIER – A bill to exempt feminine hygiene products from sales tax in Vermont has been sent to the Senate for a vote.
Bill SB 53 would abolish sales tax on products such as tampons, panty liners, menstrual cups and similar products “designed for feminine hygiene in connection with the human menstrual cycle”. The Senate Finance Committee voted 7-0 on Wednesday for the passage’s recommendation.
Feminine hygiene products are currently subject to Vermont sales tax at 6%, and in some communities an additional 1% of the local option tax. State law currently exempts other medical devices such as adult diapers and bandages from the tax.
The measure would cost the state an estimated $ 685,000 per year in lost revenue, according to the Joint Tax Office. According to Senator Chris Pearson, P / D-Chittenden, one of the bill’s main sponsors, this is a good guideline that corrects an injustice embedded in our tax laws since we introduced a sales tax.
In the past, legislators discussed the exemption of feminine hygiene products from sales tax. However, this is the first time the proposal has passed a vote in the Senate.
In December 2019, a group of Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to the Vermont Department of Taxes urging the Scott government to exempt menstrual care products from state sales tax.
“These products are … necessary for the health of women and girls,” wrote the five legislators at the time. “They are not just ‘hygienic’ products. Women and girls risk infections and other illnesses when non-hygienic products (or no products) are used to absorb menstrual blood. “
Pearson said the tax was wrongly targeting menstrual products.
“For example, adult diapers are exempt from sales tax,” he said. “These are not luxuries, but they are used by men and women alike, and we exempt them from sales tax because we consider them a medical necessity. How on earth do we not treat tampons and pads the same? I can’t think of a single justification for this. “
Tax Commissioner Craig Bolio told lawmakers who drafted the 2019 letter that a change in regulations could cause Vermont to no longer comply with the tiered “Optimized Sales Tax” agreement and suggested that lawmakers move instead should focus on legislation.
A Senate committee looked at the issue again last year, but the arrival of the pandemic in the middle of the 2020 legislature has hampered those efforts, Pearson said.
Now sponsors of the law hope that support for the effort has expanded.
“I think lawmakers are increasingly pushing to say, ‘Look, these are products that women and girls and non-binary people who are menstruating need. They’re not optional, ”said Senator Ruth Hardy, D-Addison, another member of the finance committee and co-founder of the bill.
The legislation reads, “Recognizing that access and taxation are important tools to promote gender equality,” Hardy said.
She said she was optimistic that this would be supported by Republican senators looking to cut taxes on Vermonters, as well as Democratic and progressive senators who would likely agree to the goal of improving access to essential health products.
Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, supports efforts to reduce Vermonters’ tax burden, his spokesman Jason Maulucci said in an email to VtDigger.
“The governor remains committed to efforts to reduce the tax burden on Vermonters and looks forward to reviewing this legislation as it progresses through the legislative process,” said Maulucci.
The legislation could protect Vermont from future lawsuits, Pearson said. Pearson said he read about recent actions against other state governments, including Michigan, regarding the right to tax the sale of feminine hygiene products.
Many states have considered exemptions from feminine hygiene products in recent years. 35 states had taxes on these products in 2019, and 22 were considering abolishing some form of taxation on tampons and other menstrual care-related products.
An inequality in taxation of feminine hygiene products by Vermont and other states while other health products are tax exempt underscores the need for laws like SB 53, Pearson said.