Friday, February 16, 2018
Business

PunditFact: Are pads and tampons taxed but Viagra and Rogaine not?

The statement

"Pads and tampons (are) still taxed when Viagra and Rogaine are not."

Actor Ashley Judd, Jan. 1 at the Women's March in Washington, D.C.

The ruling

When it comes to sales taxes on purchases, states typically set the rules.

Seven states currently exempt tampons, menstrual cups and pads from taxation, the latest of which came into effect Jan. 1 (Illinois), said sales tax consultant Diane Yetter. The exemption Washington, D.C., passed in December is pending congressional approval, and Connecticut's will kick in July 1, 2018.

Five states (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon) have no sales tax at all. So, as of Jan. 22, 38 states and D.C. tax feminine hygiene products.

Because it is a prescription drug, Viagra, an erectile dysfunction medicine, isn't taxed in any state except Illinois.

Rogaine, a product for hair loss, is exempt from taxes in eight states because it is an over-the-counter treatment and doesn't require a prescription. (Four states have qualified exemptions for nonprescription items that Rogaine does not appear to qualify for.)

We won't weigh in on whether the disparity between taxation of feminine hygiene and erectile dysfunction drugs is ethical or sexist. But there is context for how that disparity came to exist.

Nicole Kaeding, a state tax policy analyst at the free-market oriented Tax Foundation, stressed that the term "tampon tax" is a misnomer because feminine hygiene products are not subject to a specific tax in any state.

"There is no more a tampon tax than there is a soap tax, shampoo tax or toilet paper tax," Kaeding said.

As we mentioned, many states do provide exemptions for necessities like food and medicine. (Kaeding and the Tax Analysts' David Brunori believe these items should be taxed, as well.)

But "menstruation isn't considered a disease or illness," Yetter said. "Tampons and pads are often included in the category of grooming and hygiene products."

It's also important to note that tax exemptions apply to broad categories and not any male product explicitly.

"You could easily pick a drug that only applies to females, say birth control pills, and those would fall under the same sales tax exemptions as Viagra or Rogaine," Kaeding said.

We rate Judd's claim Half True.

Read more rulings at PunditFact.com.

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