Is New York Taxing Menstruation? A Lawsuit To Ban The Tampon Tax Claims Discrimination

Women menstruate — it’s a fact of life. And when they menstruate, they have to buy tampons or sanitary pads. But most states in the U.S. have taken advantage of that fact and lodged a tax on feminine hygiene products. A lawsuit seeks to end that tax in New York State.

Only a small percentage of states have lifted the so-called tampon tax in recent years and a lawsuit filed by five women seeks to do the same in New York, where tax revenue from such items rake in $14 million every year.

The lawsuit seeks to stop the tax and collect millions in restitution for ladies “targeted by the illegal sales tax,” CBS News added. The lawsuit was filed against the State Department of Taxation and Finance.

“There can be only one explanation for the Department’s decision to tax tampons and pads but not Rogaine, dandruff shampoo, foot powder, chapstick, and so many other less medically necessary products also used by men…[these products] are used by women only,” the lawsuit reads.

According to CNN Money, feminine hygiene products are subject to a 4 percent luxury tax because guidelines published by the State Department of Taxation and Finance classifies them as “general merchandise.” The lawsuit contends that such products are “medical supplies” and thus eligible for a tax exemption.

The tampon tax seems to imply that such products aren’t necessary, but the lawsuit argues that they “serve multiple medical purposes. They are not luxury items, but a necessity for [our] health.” Further, the Federal Food and Drug Administration considers them “medical devices.”

The fact that New York State doesn’t agree with the FDA that the tampon is a necessary medical device creates a double standard and discriminates against the female gender, the suit argues. Attorney Zoe Salzman took the point one step further.

“Tampons and sanitary pads are a necessity, not a luxury. There is no way these products would be taxed if men had to use them.”

The tampon tax also makes life difficult for the poor, Think Progress argued.

One of the tampon tax lawsuit plaintiffs, Catherine O’Neil, called it a “regressive tax. Poor women don’t have the ability to buy tampons in bulk. They buy in small packages and thus they are taxed more.”

Government assistance programs don’t provide aid to help poor women buy these items and are therefore often times forced to use whatever they can find — like old rags — out of desperation.

The tampon tax is a common staple in U.S. states and only recently have women begun to rally for it to be abolished. Only 10 states have stopped imposing the tampon tax and efforts to eliminate it in other states are gaining ground. In New York, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) has introduced a bill to get rid of it. And in response to this lawsuit, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has vowed to repeal the tampon tax.

However, legislation recently proposed by two lawmakers to add feminine hygiene products to the list of exempt items in the tax code hasn’t gone anywhere.

Just last month in Utah, an all-male panel of legislators upheld a tampon tax in that state, while it was repealed in Pennsylvania and Minnesota; Connecticut and Illinois are debating changes.

But the tampon tax isn’t just an American thing. Protests have been held in Australia, Paris, and Britain, and the tampon tax has become a women’s rights initiative.

The lawsuit was filed by Margo Seibert, an actor and co-founder of Racket, mathematician/data scientist Catherine O’Neil, Jennifer Moore, a children’s program coordinator and photographer Natalie Brasington. Racket is an advocacy group that helps women embrace menstruation and promotes wellness.

The driving belief behind the tampon tax lawsuit is a simple one, and something all females — especially those also angered by the so-called “pink tax” — was best stated by the lawsuit’s lead counsel, Ilann M. Maazel.

“It’s time for New York to stop taxing women for being women.”

Tampons were also in the news last week when a British student left one in her body for nine days and almost died, as the Inquisitr previously reported.

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