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More US States Lift Taxes From Female Hygiene Products

In Asia, India and Malaysia ended their tax on feminine hygiene products this year, as well.

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feminine hygiene products
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., June 22, 2016. Bills to exempt feminine hygiene products and diapers from sales taxes were vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016, but the measure's author's are reintroducing the proposals. VOA

A growing number of states are moving to end a tax on feminine hygiene products seen as discriminating against women.

The issue will be on a state ballot this November for the first time, with voters in Nevada decided the matter in a referendum.

While there is no specific tax on menstrual products in any U.S. state, many states exempt people from having to pay a tax on “medically necessary” products. These products can include medicines, as well as personal care items such as ChapStick and dandruff shampoo. Women’s feminine products, including tampons and pads, have historically not been included in these exemptions.

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Sanitary napkins being made from banana fibre.
Measures

With state taxes typically running between 4 and 9 percent, activists have increasingly been advocating for eliminating the so-called “tampon tax,” saying it unfairly hurts women.

“I think the issue itself has come out of the shadows. It’s really quite a no-brainer,” said Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, who has written a book on the issue, “Periods Gone Public.”

Weiss-Wolf, who also founded the organization Period Equity to eliminate sales tax on menstrual products, notes that women typically spend $70-$100 per year on such products. Many women typically menstruate between the ages of 12 to 50.

Nadya Okamoto, who named her nonprofit organization PERIOD, said the tampon tax can greatly affect low-income women.

“For some people, the few extra cents or dollars really do make a difference,” said Okamoto, whose organization provides menstrual products for those in need.

Okamoto said she became interested in accessible menstrual products when she was younger, and her family did not have a home for a time. During that time, she met homeless women who had to make their own menstrual pads.

“When you don’t have a roof over your head, the tampon tax can mean the difference between buying tampons and having to resort to using socks or cardboard, instead,” she said.

State legislation

Nine states have specifically exempted feminine hygiene products from sales tax: Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Five other states have no sales tax at all.

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Plastic sanitary pads do not decompose easily.

“We still have 36 states to go,” said Weiss-Wolf, who expressed optimism the measure would be adopted by other states. “Nationally, this is a policy issue that has extraordinary support,” she said, noting that Democrats and Republicans have backed state legislation.

Last year, lawmakers in Nevada passed a bill repealing the tampon tax, with large majorities in both parties supporting the legislation. Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval signed the bill, but the issue must still be decided by voters. Nevada law requires all amendments to sales tax decisions be put to a voter referendum.

“What happens there could be inspiring,” said Weiss-Wolf, who explained that the successful passage of a referendum could create another model for activists to use in their campaign to eliminate the tampon tax.

The latest region to adopt the policy change was the District of Columbia. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced in October that the city would no longer charge sales tax on tampons, sanitary napkins, menstrual cups or comparable products.

She explained her decision in a tweet: “Because feminine hygiene is a necessity, not a luxury.” Sales tax in the District is 6 percent.

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California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at a forum in Sacramento, Calif. VOA

In some states, bills have been circulated but not passed. California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation in 2016 on the grounds that it would cost the state too much money. California’s state Board of Equalization estimated the tampon tax repeal would have cost $20 million in 2016.

Okamoto said the main argument she hears against repeal is from people who “don’t see periods as a necessity,” and who “don’t think their tax dollars should be used on periods.”

She said one model that can work for states is to introduce a tax on “something that isn’t a necessity, like alcohol, in place of menstrual hygiene products.”

International issue

The fight against the tampon tax is relatively new in the United States, with most state legislation introduced in the last few years. Activists say they were influenced by similar campaigns in other countries, including in Britain and Australia.

Also Read: Alternative Sanitary Pads Are Here, But Accessibility Still An Issue

Years of campaigning in Australia culminated in October, when federal and state governments announced they were removing a 10 percent tax on feminine hygiene products.

A campaign in Spain also scored a victory in October when the government announced that the value-added tax (VAT) on feminine hygiene products will be cut from 10 percent to 4 percent.

In Asia, India and Malaysia ended their tax on feminine hygiene products this year, as well. (VOA)

Next Story

What Are the Benefits of Introducing GST in India?

GST has enabled small businesses to simplify their tax return by introducing the Composition Scheme under GST

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GST
The GST created a unified tax structure and provided businesses with certainty and transparency. 

The Goods and Services Tax is a consumption tax that has changed the way India does indirect taxation. The GST was under consideration for a very long time. The tax structure which India had before the advent of the GST was quite complicated and extremely convoluted.

There were many taxes which were administered by a myriad of governing bodies, some going down to the city level. This created a lot of problems for businesses and consumers alike. Not only did businesses have to employ people to figure out and compute the tax, but they also had to figure out who to pay it to.

GST
Simplification of small business was a priority which is why, for example, the Composition Scheme under GST was introduced. This scheme helps small businesses reduce red tape and file more straightforward tax returns.

This created a drag on the economy and took money out of productive uses. All of this changed with the introduction of the GST tax. The GST created a unified tax structure and provided businesses with certainty and transparency.

Simplification of small business was a priority which is why, for example, the Composition Scheme under GST was introduced. This scheme helps small businesses reduce red tape and file more straightforward tax returns.

Some of the main benefits of the Goods and Services Tax system are:

1. Simplification of the Tax Code:

The pre-GST era was characterized by a complex and murky tax structure in which companies had to navigate as best they could. There were many layers of taxes such as VAT, Cess, Central Excise Duty as well as local taxes at the city level, which needed to be paid when a product or service was delivered to the customer.

This has now been simplified with the introduction of the GST. Now companies need to keep track of one single tax. They can now file taxes with a single entity in a secure manner.

2. Ease of Doing Business:

The implementation of GST has brought India up the ease of doing business rankings. Having a convoluted and complex tax structure with the manual filing of taxes creates a massive volume of paperwork.

Not only was there a lot of paperwork, but offline tax filing also created scope for corruption. GST has changed all of that with the introduction of one single tax under a single tax authority. It is now a much more streamlined process which is easier for businesses to navigate.

It is also essential to have a streamlined tax process for attracting foreign investors, so that has helped with Foreign Direct Investment in India.

3. Double Taxation:

Pre-GST, there was a problem of cascading taxation, wherein taxes would be piled on top of each other, leading to double taxation. A lot of the time, businesses and consumers had to pay a tax on top of another tax.

This was because there was no way for businesses to claim an input tax credit for every step of the way. GST has changed that entirely by introducing a system where each every step of production of a product is recorded, so taxes are only added incrementally, and double taxation is avoided.

Also, small businesses faced a daunting task of navigating the complex tax system, and the GST has enabled small businesses to simplify their tax return by introducing the Composition Scheme under GST. This has been a significant benefit of GST.

4. Tax Compliance:

Tax compliance has always been an issue in India, under the older tax system where tax filing was mostly done manually, there was a lot of tax evasion and under-invoicing.

Since there was very little that the government could do to track the production of goods. With the advent of the GST, the way the system is designed, it is much easier to track the production of products through the various invoices uploaded by businesses.

The Input Tax Credit system also incentivizes companies to report the number of goods and services used so that they can claim Input Tax Credit. This has been a positive development for tax collection.

5. Increased Tax Collections:

With increasing tax compliance, there is a potential for increasing tax collections. With the increased tax collection, the government can spend more money on important public services like health, safety, etc.

This is also one of the most important benefits of having a tax system that allows higher rates of compliance.

GST
The Goods and Services Tax is a consumption tax that has changed the way India does indirect taxation. The GST was under consideration for a very long time. Pixabay

6. Foreign Investment:

In a globalized world, it is vital to attract capital from around the world. Top companies who want to invest in a country look for stable and transparent tax regimes so that they have regulatory certainty.

The older tax structure was haphazard and under the authority of multiple tax collecting bodies. This created a problem for foreign firms who wanted to invest in the country but had a tough time negotiating the tax landscape of the country.

The GST has completely changed that. The GST is under one central authority and uses the GSTN (Goods and Services Tax Network), which is the information technology service which underpins the whole system.

The GST system is also much more nimble and able to respond to the needs of the market because it is under one single tax authority, the GST Council. This is also an excellent benefit for the country as it doesn’t take a lot of consultation to change the rules in case of adverse market conditions.

ALSO READ: 10 Tips and Advice for Long-Lasting Relationships

In conclusion, there are several benefits to the country as a whole with the implementation of the GST system. Small business is the driving force of the Indian economy, providing a lot of employment. Things like the Composition Scheme under GST has helped simplify the tax filing for small business while maintaining compliance.