A Michigan House panel on Wednesday heard testimony on a set of bills getting rid of the so-called “tampon tax” introduced by state Reps. Brian Elder (D-Bay City) and Tenisha Yancey (D-Harper Woods) earlier this year.
Elder and Yancey spoke about House Bills 4165 and 4166 at the House Tax Policy Committee. The bills exempt feminine hygiene products, like pads and tampons, from sales and use tax. In Michigan, the sales tax rate is 6%.
“The bottom line is that feminine hygiene products are necessities, not luxuries, but our current policies don’t reflect this fact,” Elder said in a statement. “Michigan already exempts other necessities like food, medicine, certain medical equipment and even magazines from the sales tax, and feminine hygiene products are just as deserving.”
Similar bills to eliminate state tax placed on menstrual products were introduced in 2016 and 2017, but they were not passed.
An April 2019 nonpartisan fiscal analysis found that, as written, the bills would annually eliminate $6.5 million in use and sales tax revenue. It would impact Michigan’s School Aid Fund (SAF) by $4.8 million, with constitutional revenue sharing reduced by about $650,000. The remaining reduction would impact the General Fund.
Language in the bills suggests the Legislature could reduce the potential impact by appropriating amounts to SAF from the General Fund, but that language “cannot mandate an appropriation,” according to another House Fiscal Agency analysis.
“Although the intent is to hold the SAF harmless, the transfer would not happen automatically, and statute or enacting language cannot mandate an appropriation,” the analysis reads. “Therefore, unless the legislature acted each year, the transfer would not occur.”
In a letter of testimony, Melina Brann — executive director of the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing — urged the Tax Policy Committee to exempt feminine hygiene products from the tax, calling the matter an “economic and quality of life issue” that shouldn’t be partisan.
“Access to sanitary products while menstruating is essential for women to lead a healthy life; to regularly attend school, work, personal events; and to fully participate in one’s community,” Bran wrote in the letter. “It’s not political to want a better life for women and their families. Political party preferences don’t determine if you need a tampon. Axing the tax on these medically necessary products is about quality of life. Period.”
American Association of University Women (AAUW) members also submitted a letter in support of both bills. Mary Pollack, a government relations coordinator for AAUW, said the tax creates “an even more dramatic burden” for women who already spend $7 to $10 a month to purchase the products.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) do not apply to the cost of menstrual hygiene products, nor does the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) identify them as medical devices, as the letter noted. Pollack urged Michigan lawmakers to join other states in eliminating the sales tax on the products.
So far, 12 states exempt menstrual hygiene products from sales tax. They are California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.