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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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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

Amidst Weakened Domestic Demand, China Expected To Report Slow Economic Growth

The government may unveil more fiscal stimulus measures during the annual parliament meeting in March, including bigger tax cuts

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A woman looks at job advertisements on a wall in Qingdao West Coast New Zone in Shandong province, China, Jan. 17, 2019. VOA

China is expected to report Monday that economic growth cooled to its slowest in 28 years in 2018 amid weakening domestic demand and bruising U.S. tariffs, adding pressure on Beijing to roll out more support measures to avert a sharper slowdown.

Growing signs of weakness in China, which has generated nearly a third of global growth in the past decade, are stoking worries about risks to the world economy and are weighing on profits for firms ranging from Apple to big carmakers.

Chinese policymakers have pledged more support for the economy this year to reduce the risk of massive job losses, but they have ruled out a flood of stimulus like that which Beijing has unleashed in the past, which quickly juiced growth rates but left a mountain of debt.

China, Economic Growth
Workers unload containers from a train at Dahongmen Railway Station, Beijing, Jan. 14, 2019. VOA

Estimated 2018 GDP: 6.6 percent

Analysts polled by Reuters expect the world’s second-largest economy to have grown 6.4 percent in the October-December quarter from a year earlier, slowing from the previous quarter’s 6.5 percent pace and matching levels last seen in early 2009 during the global financial crisis.

That could pull 2018 gross domestic product (GDP) growth to 6.6 percent, the lowest since 1990 and down from a revised 6.8 percent in 2017.

With stimulus measures expected to take some time to kick in, most analysts believe conditions in China are likely to get worse before they get better, and see a further slowdown to 6.3 percent this year. Some analysts believe real growth levels are much weaker than official data suggest.

Even if China and the United States agree on a trade deal in current talks, which is a tall order, analysts said it would be no panacea for the sputtering Chinese economy unless Beijing can galvanize weak investment and consumer demand.

China, Economic Growth
A worker disentangles wool yarn at a spinning machine at a factory owned by Hong Kong’s Novetex Textiles Limited in Zhuhai City, Guangdong province, China, Dec. 13, 2016. VOA

Prevent deflation, recession

Chen Xingdong, chief China economist at BNP Paribas, said investors should not expect the latest round of stimulus to produce similar results as during the 2008-09 global crisis, when Beijing’s huge spending package quickly boosted growth.

“What China can really do this year is to prevent deflation, prevent a recession and a hard landing in the economy,” Chen said.

On a quarterly basis, growth likely eased to 1.5 percent in October-December from 1.6 percent in the preceding period.

China will release its fourth-quarter and 2018 GDP data Monday (0200 GMT), along with December factory output, retail sales and fixed-asset investment.

Since China’s quarterly GDP readings tend to be unusually steady, most investors prefer to focus on recent trends.

China, Economic Growth
People try garments at a retail and wholesale clothing mall in Beijing, July 16, 2018. China’s economic growth slowed in the quarter ending in June, adding to challenges for Beijing amid a mounting tariff battle with Washington. VOA

Hints economy cooling quickly

Surprising contractions in December trade data and factory activity gauges in recent weeks have suggested the economy cooled more quickly than expected at the end of 2018, leaving it on shakier footing at the start of the new year.

Sources have told Reuters that Beijing was planning to lower its growth target to 6-6.5 percent this year from around 6.5 percent in 2018.

Tepid expansion in industrial output and weaker consumer spending is squeezing companies’ profit margins, discouraging fresh investment and raising the risk of higher job losses.

Some factories in Guangdong, China’s export hub, have shut earlier than usual ahead of the long Lunar New Year holiday as the tariff war with the United States curtails orders. Others are suspending production lines and cutting back on workers’ hours.

If the trade war drags on, some migrant workers may not have jobs to return to.

Trade talk deadline

Trade negotiators are facing an early March deadline and Washington has threatened to sharply hike tariffs if there are no substantial signs of progress.

China, Economic Growth
A woman cleans the window at a Aston Martin luxury car dealership in Beijing, Dec. 12, 2018. Auto sales have fallen sharply in China. VOA

So far, Chinese policymakers have fast-tracked construction projects and cut taxes and some import duties to spur demand.

To free up more funds for lending, particularly to more vulnerable smaller firms, the central bank has cut the amount banks need to set aside as reserves (RRR) five times over the past year, and guided borrowing costs lower.

Further RRR reductions are expected in coming quarters, but most analysts do not see a cut in benchmark interest rates just yet, as policymakers wait to see if earlier steps begin to stabilize conditions. More forceful easing could pressure the yuan and aggravate high debt levels, with money going into less efficient or speculative investments.

Also Read: The World Economic Forum To Discuss Globalization, Climate Change

The government may unveil more fiscal stimulus measures during the annual parliament meeting in March, including bigger tax cuts and more spending on infrastructure projects, analysts say.

Some China watchers believe the government could deliver 2 trillion yuan ($295.13 billion) worth of cuts in taxes and fees this year, and allow local governments to issue another 2 trillion yuan in special bonds largely used to fund key projects.

Still, some analysts do not expect the economy to bottom out convincingly until summer. (VOA)