Iowa Republicans presented an interesting debate about sales taxes with their proposal to give Iowans a tax holiday for firearm purchases.
Here’s a better idea for lawmakers — create a statewide sales tax holiday for certain hygiene products, and make it 365 days per year.
Under current law, groceries and medicine are exempt from Iowa’s sales tax, with the understanding that the government should not drive up costs for basic necessities. It would make a lot of sense to also exclude menstrual products and diapers, which millions of Iowans rely on to live healthy and comfortable lives.
There is a movement in American statehouses in recent years to remove the sales tax from feminine hygiene products. About a dozen states now have no tampon tax, while many others have considered proposals and a handful of states have no sales tax at all.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ tax reform agenda this year includes raising the statewide sales tax by one percentage point, coupled with several other changes to the tax system. Part of her plan is to exempt diapers and feminine hygiene products from the sales tax.
Whatever legislators decide to do on taxes this year, they should make Reynolds’ tax-free tampons proposal a top priority. It is a common-sense idea we hope will garner overwhelming bipartisan support.
Worse than bad policy, there is some discussion that the tampon tax may be illegal. The advocacy group Tax Free. Period. argues it is a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, and is threatening legal action against states that don’t abolish the tax.
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“Because it is women who menstruate, and must use menstrual products, the tampon tax is a tax on women,” Tax Free. Period. writes in its lobbying materials.
Brief sales tax holidays — like Iowa has for clothing at the beginning of the school year, or this year’s proposal for a firearm holiday around July 4 — are marketing stunts more than meaningful public policy. Economic analyses raise doubts about whether they actually allow people to purchase more goods, or just shift the times when people shop.
Iowa needs a predictable, sustainable tax code that doesn’t seek to extract revenue from people based on their basic bodily functions. It’s time to end the tampon tax.
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