Texas is one of 26 states that still taxes these products, as they are currently categorized as luxury items rather than necessities. Certain items, including medical necessities such as bandages and medicine, are tax-exempt in Texas.
“We know this is a medical necessity; this is a monthly necessity for years in a woman’s life. It is not a luxury item, as the sales tax would imply,” said State Rep. Donna Howard.
The issue will again be discussed during next year’s legislative session. A bill to make menstrual products tax-free, authored by Rep. Howard, has been proposed every legislative session since 2017 but died in committee each time.
However, the repeal effort has gained more support, recently from key Republican figures like Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar and State Sen. Joan Huffman, indicating that an overturn of the tax could be possible.
If the bill passes through the committee and falls onto the desk of Governor Abbott, he has stated that he will approve the measure.
“Governor Abbott fully supports exempting feminine hygiene products from state and local sales tax,” Renae Eze, Abbott’s spokesperson, told The Texas Tribune. “These are essential products for women’s health and quality of life, and the Governor looks forward to working with the legislature in the next session to remove this tax burden on Texas women.”
Teenagers across the state have gotten involved in showing support for tax-free menstrual products. Some have tried to normalize discussions involving periods and women’s health, something they claim is stigmatized by older generations.
“I think that’s translated into a lot of frustration with my peers over not being able to talk about something that is so natural,” teenager and activist Sahar Punjwani said.
Though many may be more open to discussing the need for menstrual products these days, not everyone supports repealing the tax. Some have argued that the measure would unnecessarily take away from the state’s tax base.
“Every time another exemption is passed, it means the tax rate that applies to everything else will have to increase in order to generate that same amount of revenue,” said Katherine E. Loughead, a policy analyst at The Tax Foundation.
Out of the $27 billion in Texas sales tax generated each year, only an estimated 0.1% comes from taxes on menstrual products.
“Texas can absorb this lost revenue easily, but for countless Texas women, this will mean significant savings in their personal budgets over time,” stated Hegar.
In an opinion piece, writer Susan Morse opined that menstrual products should be taxed just like other hygiene products, such as soap and toothpaste. She asserted that, although some low-income persons may have difficulty affording these necessities, it is not a sales tax issue.
“These same women and girls probably have difficulty buying many other things too. It makes sense to help them. For instance, tampons and pads can be provided in public institutions such as schools, just as toilet paper and soap are provided. Private organizations could help with this too,” wrote Morse.
Seventeen states and Washington D.C. currently require schools to provide these products to students. It is not mandatory in Texas, but some local school districts have already taken steps to put tax dollars toward tampons and pads to their students.
Dallas ISD began offering them last year, and Fort Worth will make them available beginning this school year.
Austin Independent School District will also be offering free menstrual products to its students beginning this fall, having spent nearly $150,000 over the summer to purchase dispensers and a supply of menstrual products.