Rhode Island State House

Rep. Edith Ajello and Sen. Louis P. DiPalma are once again pushing for Rhode Island to exempt menstrual products from the state sales tax.

“Menstrual products are a necessity to women, regardless of their ability to afford them, and many can’t. Imposing a tax on them makes a regular necessity more expensive, and amounts to a tax on being a woman. Does the state really need to collect a profit from every woman each time she needs feminine hygiene products? As a matter of principle and a matter of the financial needs of many Rhode Island women, our state should add menstrual products the many items that are already exempt from sales tax,” said Representative Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence) in a prepared statement.

The legislation (2019-H 5307, 2019-S 0049) would exempt tampons, panty liners, menstrual cups, sanitary napkins, and other similar products used in connection with women’s menstrual cycles. Both sponsors have filed the bill since 2016, and it has been supported by the Rhode Island Medical Society, Planned Parenthood and the Women’s Policy Institute.

Of the 45 U.S. states that collect sales tax, 10, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, currently exempt feminine hygiene products. Canada eliminated the “tampon tax” nationwide in 2015, and several other countries have as well.

Among the numerous other categories and items that have been declared exempt from state sales tax in Rhode Island are clothing items under $250, food, newspapers, coffins, boats and horse food.

“Rhode Island should not be taxing feminine hygiene products as if buying them is some kind of luxury that indicates a person’s ability to pitch in a little more to support the state. They are a necessity, and one that is already fairly expensive for those of limited means who tend to rely on buy now pay later apps no credit check type of loans. You can’t buy them with SNAP, and many women and girls can’t afford as many as they actually need. The state doesn’t need to add to their costs. For the same reason we exempt food and clothing — necessity — we should exempt menstrual products,” said Senator DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Tiverton, Newport) in a prepared statement.

According to the press release from the General Assembly, a box of 36 CVS brand tampons currently costs $6.29, on which the state would collect 44 cents sales tax. If a woman were to buy a box at that price every month for 40 years, she would pay about $211 in sales tax on them, a cost to which men are not subject, since there is no similar regular necessity for men on which they pay sales tax.

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