Nebraska has scores of sales tax exemptions, including on purchases of aviation fuel, bullion and lottery tickets.
There’s room for one more to that list: Adding feminine hygiene products among these tax-exempt items is a no-brainer.
The state now has the opportunity to make this needed change for women following the introduction of a bill, LB798, by Omaha Sen. Mike McDonnell. His legislation merely adds five lines to Nebraska Code, exempting feminine hygiene products from sales and use taxes and defining these items.
Nebraska is the latest state to pursue this worthy battle of removing tampons and other related products from sales taxes.
The Tax Foundation reports that, in 2016, 13 states and the District of Columbia saw efforts that would specifically exempt feminine hygiene products from their statewide sales taxes. In all, nine states have adopted plans to stop subjecting these items to sales taxes, joining five states that levy no sales tax.
Though the term “tampon tax” is widely known and used to address this situation, it doesn’t provide the most accurate explanation of these items’ actual tax standing.
No specific tax governs feminine hygiene products; they’re covered under standard sales tax laws. Any move to end the tampon tax, therefore, is just to exempt them from the same sales taxes at the register when consumers buy, say, tissues or toilet paper at the grocery store or pharmacy.
Some states officially classify tampons as “luxury” products, despite these items’ obvious necessity to women, in their state code. We’re happy to report Nebraska is not one of them.
It’s also worth noting that the timing for a bill that would divert revenue from state coffers is less than ideal in a session where lawmakers must close a $173 million shortfall. But the cost of this proposal represents a fraction of a drop in the bucket.
McDonnell’s legislation, the first proposal ever to address this exemption before the Legislature, isn’t yet accompanied by a fiscal note, which would estimate the revenue decline. His office didn’t yet have a specific figure, either, when contacted by the Journal Star.
Nebraska, though, has millions fewer residents and a significantly lower cost of living than two states with such projections for tax revenues that would be lost by exempting feminine hygiene products from sales taxes: California ($20 million) and New York ($10 million).
More than 53 million women live in states where feminine hygiene products aren't subject to state sales taxes. But nearly 109 million – including 945,000 in Nebraska – don’t.
To have an item this essential for women saddled with a sales tax burden borne exclusively by women makes little sense. Feminine hygiene products are worthy of joining Nebraska’s list of exempted products, and McDonnell’s bill provides a proper, timely vehicle for such simple, yet necessary, reform to take place.