NY to become latest state to exempt tampons from sales tax

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Boxes of tampons are displayed in a pharmacy, Monday, March 7, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Boxes of tampons are displayed in a pharmacy, Monday, March 7, 2016, in New York.
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

ALBANY, N.Y. -- New York is poised to become the latest state to repeal its sales tax on tampons in response to a national and international push to abolish it.

The state Senate on Monday followed the Assembly and passed legislation to exempt tampons and other feminine hygiene products from state sales taxes. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign it into law.

"We've said we'd work with the Legislature to repeal this tax and we applaud their action," his spokeswoman Dani Lever said.

Canada and five other states - Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey and Pennsylvania - have enacted similar tax exemptions, the New York sponsors said. Pushed by social media campaigns, repeals are also under consideration in other states including Rhode Island, Connecticut, Illinois and California. A similar effort failed earlier this year in Utah.

In New York, Sen. Sue Serino, a Hudson Valley Republican who sponsored the bill, said the state exempts from its 4 percent sales tax medicine, medical equipment and supplies, while excluding toiletries that don't contain medicinal ingredients. Feminine hygiene products are considered taxable.

"To consider that we exempt cupcakes and circus performances from the sales tax in New York State, but not sanitary napkins and tampons - products women depend on - is beyond comprehension," Serino said.

A similar bill passed in the state Assembly a month ago.

Assembly member Linda Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat and sponsor, said there are more than 10 million women of child-bearing age in New York who are affected.

"To be sure, the tax on tampons and other similar products harkens back to a time when little was understood about women's biology and the vast majority of lawmakers were men," Rosenthal said. The Assembly and Senate bills have different language, which will be reconciled and enacted into law this year, she said.

A group of New York City women recently sued the state tax department seeking damages, arguing that the tax violates the state and federal constitutions' equal protection clauses.