Sales tax exemption proposed for feminine hygiene products

The Revenue Committee heard testimony Feb. 21 on a bill that would create a state sales and use tax exemption for feminine hygiene products.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist05' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. Mike McDonnell'>Sen. Mike McDonnell</a>
Sen. Mike McDonnell

Omaha Sen. Mike McDonnell, sponsor of LB798, said tampons and menstrual pads, cups and sponges should be exempt from state sales and use taxes because they address a biological need. He said his proposal is an opportunity for a conversation about the state’s current tax exemptions, which include those for escort services, shoe shining, bail bonding, wedding planning and tattoo and body modification.

“If escort services and tattoo services are tax exempt, while other services such as pest control are not,” McDonnell said, “then exempting feminine hygiene products has merit.”

Megan Mikolajczyk, associate general counsel and senior political affairs manager of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, testified on the bill. She said no one should be financially burdened simply because of her reproductive functions. Period products are a necessity for women of child-bearing age, Mikolajczyk added, and necessities should not be taxed.

“Exempting period products from sales tax certainly does not destroy all the systems of oppression perpetuating gender inequity,” she said. “But passing this legislation would demonstrate that the Legislature recognizes the existence of those systems and is willing to work to dismantle them.”

Lillie Cox, a research fellow at the OpenSky Policy Institute, provided neutral testimony on the bill. She said eight other states have adopted similar exemptions on the grounds that tampons and menstrual pads are medical products and that states typically do not tax other items in that category, such as prescription drugs. Opponents say, however, that all consumer goods—both luxuries and necessities—should be taxed.

Cox said Nebraska’s tax structure is out of date because it exempts many services from sales tax, even though the economy has moved from primarily goods-based to primarily services-based.

“It is nonsensical that we have sales tax exemptions for candy and soda but not for tampons,” Cox said. “However, creating an exemption for feminine hygiene products probably makes more sense as part of a long-overdue comprehensive overhaul of sales tax exemptions than it does as one component of a piecemeal approach.”

No further testimony was provided, and the committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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