Gov. Northam signs bill to reduce 'Tampon Tax'

Published: Mar. 20, 2019 at 5:02 PM EDT
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A bill to reduce the Virginia sales tax on essential personal hygiene products, including tampons, was signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam on March 20.


, which were versions of the same bill sponsored by Senator Jennifer Boysko (D-Fairfax) and Delegate Kathy Byron (R-Bedford), apply a reduced Retail Sales and Use Tax rate of 2.5 percent.

It applies to what are labeled as essential personal hygiene products, including feminine hygiene products and nondurable incontinence products such as diapers.

Right now, those products are subject to the full sales tax, which 5.3 percent in most of Virginia, but 6 percent in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia and 7 percent in the Historic Triangle. The reduced rate currently only applies to food.

“I am pleased to sign this commonsense legislation that makes these necessities more accessible and affordable,” said Governor Northam. “The essential nature of personal health care products is not up for debate and I commend the General Assembly for coming together to ensure these savings for Virginians.”

A bill that would taken it a step farther and completely eliminated the sales tax on feminine hygiene products and diapers was left to die in committee

. At the time, Byron voted against that bill, saying it should have been part of a tax reform package.

Under current Virginia law, medical products used to treat or prevent diseases can be tax-exempt. Many retail items – including medicine, eyeglasses and firewood – are exempt from the tax.

With stores charging up to $9 for a box of 36 tampons, women will spend more than $2,000 on feminine hygiene products during their lifetimes.

“We know that menstrual supplies and diapers are necessary to leave home for work, school, and social activities,” said Boysko, who called her bill the Dignity Act. “I am so glad we have made progress on the issue of menstrual equity and at long last will have tax relief for these products that women and families have to purchase.”

Boysko has argued that it’s not fair that both menstrual products and anti-dandruff shampoo are classified as medical supplies by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but only the shampoo receives a tax exemption. Byron noted last year that menstruation is not a disease, but psoriasis – which anti-dandruff shampoo is used to prevent – is.

But this year, she threw her full support behind this considerably broader bill reducing the sales tax on a range of hygiene items.

"This legislation won widespread bipartisan support because it provides tax relief on necessities used by women and men young and old,” said Delegate Kathy Byron. “For the young family buying diapers to those purchasing other essentials for their health, the savings because of this bill will add up and be appreciated.”

Removing the tax on feminine hygiene products completely, as nine other states have done, would cost the commonwealth about $5 million in lost revenues annually, officials say.

West Virginia lawmakers are currently

to do the same.

According to the Tax Foundation, a nonprofit think tank, 14 states do not tax feminine hygiene products. Ten specifically exempt them – Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. The other five – Alaska, Delaware, New Hampshire, Montana and Oregon – do not have a sales tax.