AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas state legislators could take action in the next legislative session to remove the state’s sales tax on menstrual products.
State Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, filed a bill in advance of the 88th Texas Legislative Session that proposes a “sales and use tax exemption for certain feminine hygiene products.” Under HB70, those exemptions would be applied to tampons, pads, menstrual cups and other menstrual products.
Howard has filed similar tax exemption bills each session since 2017. While there has historically been bipartisan support on the item, bills from previous sessions have never made it to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.
In August, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Glenn Hegar joined State Sen. Joan Huffman in announcing his support for repealing state and local taxes on menstrual products. In an August statement to the Texas Tribune, Abbott said he would support eliminating the sales tax if such legislation reached his desk.
Heading into this legislative session, Howard said she feels encouraged this bill will finally be signed into law.
“I think having leadership, though, take a public stance is going to give more of a priority to ensuring that it actually does pass this time,” she said. “So I’m very hopeful that we will be able to get this across the finish line.”
Conversations surrounding repealing sales taxes on menstrual products have grown in momentum in recent years. Nationally, 22 states charge sales tax on period products, as of late September. Five states don’t implement a statewide sales tax, while 23 states have repealed sales taxes on menstrual products, according to the Alliance for Period Supplies.
In Texas, Howard said interest in this issue has been reflected both in and beyond the Texas Legislature.
When she first introduced a menstrual products sales tax exemption bill, she said the issue didn't receive a hearing. The second time it was filed, it received a hearing and bipartisan support but not enough for the bill to exit the committee discussions. Last session, it made it out of committee discussions, but she said legislators just didn't have the time to pass it.
Outside the State Capitol, though, she said she's inspired by the number of young Texans who have advocated for the repeal and discussed the ways these extra costs have impacted their lives.
"It's been extremely encouraging to see the young women who are even in high school, as well as in college, who actually came to Austin to testify in support of this legislation. That's how strongly they feel about this," she said. "This is a discriminatory tax — it impacts half of our population at some point in time in their lives."
If approved, menstrual products wouldn't be the first to receive sales tax exemptions in Texas. Currently, the Texas Comptroller's office offers sales tax exemptions for medical products like drugs and medicine, wound dressings such as bandages and dietary supplements.
August estimates from the Comptroller's office indicated sales tax on menstrual products would generate approximately $28.6 million during the next biennium, which is Texas' two-year state legislative and budgetary period. By comparison, Hegar's office projected an ending balance for the 2022-23 biennium of $27 billion.
“Taxing these products is archaic, and it is time for Texas to join the 24 states that already exempt tampons and other feminine hygiene products from sales tax,” Hegar said in the August release, later adding: “Texas can absorb this lost revenue easily, but for countless Texas women, this will mean significant savings in their personal budgets over time.”
While the immediate impact of a sales tax exemption passing would mean less money spent on menstrual products, Howard said it could also improve educational and employment opportunities for many Texans.
"We've been told by the school districts that several young women do not attend school for a couple of days each month, because they do not have access to these products," she said.
With that has also come a historic stigmatization of periods and related conversations, Howard added. By having many young Texans advocate for this repeal and several leading state officials offer their support, Howard said this increased civic engagement has translated into possible long-term policy changes.
"I think it's so encouraging to see young people recognizing the power of their civic engagement and taking it seriously, and coming in and talking about an issue that sometimes is stigmatized," she said. "I've been extremely proud of these young women in what they've done and I think it's going to bode well for the future of their civic engagement — they're going to see that what they've done has made a difference, and it's been incredible to watch."