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Period care brands August, Rael and others unite to fight ‘tampon tax’

Starting Wednesday, consumers paying state sales tax on menstrual products will be able to get those costs on some period care purchases reimbursed.

The Tampon Tax Back Coalition — an initiative of period care brands August, Cora, LOLA, The Honey Pot, Rael, Here We Flo, Saalt and DIVA — will reimburse consumers for the tax paid on eligible items sold by the eight participating brands.

The coalition aims to stop the “tampon tax,” a term used to describe the state sales tax imposed on products such as tampons, pads and menstrual cups in more than a dozen U.S. states. Many states exempt essential products such as food and medications from being subject to sales tax but leave out period care products, because their current state tax codes consider them nonessential goods.

“So much of the work that has to be done is changing public opinion, putting that public pressure on legislators,” said Nadya Okamoto, co-founder of August, an inclusive period care brand focusing on providing products for all menstruators, not just those who identify as female. “We’ve made some progress, but there’s still quite a bit of ways to go.”

Twenty-one states in the U.S. tax menstrual items at “standard rates,” meaning tampons and pads are taxed at the same rate as any other nonessential product you would pick up at your local retailer, according to data from the Alliance for Period Supplies.

The annual cost of the taxes to consumers totals roughly $80 million, according to Period Law, a group recruiting volunteer attorneys to help advance period equity legislation.

The Tampon Tax Back Coalition was born out of an initiative by August that launched in May. Now with seven additional brands on board, the coalition said it is prioritizing the customer and making the reimbursement process easier.

“This is something that shouldn’t exist,” Okamoto said. “A customer shouldn’t have to text multiple different places or figure out the logistics of how they get the ‘tampon tax’ back if they’re buying one brand of tampons, one brand pads.”

Nadya Okamoto, founder and executive director of Period, speaking during the 2019 Makers Conference in Dana Point, California, U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019.

Bloomberg | Getty Images

Yanghee Paik, CEO of Rael, a clean feminine care and skincare startup, called the coalition a “big step” toward sending a message that period care products are essential to covering “basic medical needs.”

“Not many people really have the awareness of this issue in the country,” said Paik, adding the tax is “very, very backward.”

Beatrice Dixon, CEO at The Honey Pot, said it was not until she started her own period care brand that she learned about the tampon tax: “Before that, I didn’t even know that I as a consumer was even paying that.” 

Dixon described the decision to get involved in the coalition as a “no-brainer.”

To get reimbursed, customers can visit the coalition’s website and start a claim for reimbursement within 10 days of the date of purchase for eligible items sold by the eight participating brands. Customers will be refunded via Venmo or PayPal within 24 hours of their submissions, according to the coalition.

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