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Why Utah lawmakers may not repeal the 'tampon tax'

Posted at 7:21 PM, Nov 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-25 21:33:32-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill to put hygiene products in every Utah school will be advanced in the state legislature. But a bill to repeal the sales tax on tampons, pads and other hygiene products, may not even be introduced.

A couple hundred people rallied at the Utah State Capitol last week in support of a bill being run by Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, to fund putting period products in schools.

However, the bill may not include repealing what's been nicknamed the "tampon tax."

"In 2019, we fought for ending what we call the 'tampon tax,' which was a sales tax on period products," said Emily Bell McCormick, the founder of The Policy Project, which is pushing for the period product bill.

Every year, then-Rep. Sue Duckworth, D-Magna, would introduce a bill to repeal the sales tax on all hygiene products only to see it voted down by her (mostly male) colleagues. She brought it back again and again until she retired from the legislature.

Supporters actually got it through in an omnibus tax reform bill that passed in 2019. For a few months, there was no sales tax on hygiene products. But the overall tax reform bill the legislature passed was not popular and sparked a citizen referendum. Lawmakers were forced to retreat and repeal their own bill in 2020.

As a result of that repeal, the tampon tax was restored.

"I think the legislature felt a little bit burned from the public outcry over the tax reform," McCormick said. "I think what happened there is there was a hesitancy to touch the tax code after that."

In 2021, Rep. Robert Spendlove, R-Sandy, did propose a bill to repeal the tampon tax. It did not advance.

The Policy Project, at this point, is not pursuing it in 2022.

"We kind of took a step back and said, 'What are we doing that would have a bigger impact?' And at this time, we’ll get back to the sales tax, you can mark my words, but for now the thing with the greater impact will be getting those period products in schools," McCormick said.

Rep. Spendlove said he is supporting Rep. Lisonbee's bill with no plans to revisit his tax bill.

McCormick said they are not giving up, but will try to get the sales tax on period products repealed down the road.

"We have men’s items that are not taxed, you know? We have Rogaine, we have Viagra, they’re not incurred a sales tax in our state," she said. "We have just excluded period products. I think it’s wise to be careful with our tax code, this is just something that’s off balance."