Advocates for women urged the D.C. Council to lift the sales tax on diapers, tampons and pads at the first public hearing Wednesday for legislation that is being promoted across the country.
“What, how and who we tax speaks volumes about what we value as a community and a city,” said Corinne Cannon of the D.C. Diaper Bank, adding that the savings in sales tax could allow families to buy an additional dozen diapers a month.
District residents currently don’t pay sales taxes on groceries and medically necessary drugs — including Viagra.
Some advocates said taxes on feminine hygiene products were like a tax for being a woman, and argued that jurisdictions should not classify them as “luxury goods.”
At the hearing before the council’s finance and revenue committee, about a half-dozen women testified in favor of suspending the taxes. The committee’s chair, Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), said he supported the legislation.
Maryland doesn’t tax tampons and diapers; Virginia does. A bill that would eliminate the taxes on feminine hygiene products failed in Virginia this year.
Three states — Illinois, Connecticut and New York — repealed tampon taxes this year, said Council member Anita Bonds (D-At Large), who wrote the D.C. bill. Citing budget concerns, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) vetoed legislation this month that would have banned taxes on tampons and diapers.
Bonds’s bill applies to both adult and baby diapers.
“Eliminating a tax on these products will naturally have an impact on tax revenue, but it will also have a tremendously positive impact for low- to moderate-income women and their families,” Bonds said. “I consider it a first step to gender equity for women regarding necessities for life.”
There’s no estimate yet on how much tax money the District will lose if Bonds’s bill passes. The price tag will be considered when the Finance and Revenue Committee takes up the bill for a final vote, which is expected in a few weeks.