Bill would remove sales taxes from period products in SC

If you buy gift-wrapping paper, livestock, or even a rollercoaster in South Carolina, you won’t pay any sales tax. But you will on a box of tampons.
Published: Apr. 17, 2023 at 5:23 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 17, 2023 at 11:18 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - If you buy gift-wrapping paper, livestock, or even a rollercoaster in South Carolina, you won’t pay any sales tax. But you will on a box of tampons.

Despite being a monthly essential for many South Carolinians, period products like tampons, pads, and menstrual cups, are not tax-exempt as other medical use products are.

“Viagra is not taxed in this state because it is considered medicine, and the FDA classifies tampons and pads as medical products, so we need to make sure our tax code matches that,” Ashley Lidow of the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network said.

A bipartisan bill advancing at the State House, H.3563, would exempt period products, also known as feminine hygiene products, from state and local sales taxes — a cost that supporters argue is only imposed on a specific group of South Carolinians.

“These individuals are not choosing to have menstrual cycles. This is something that is natural through their birth,” Karen Culbreath, executive director of the Greenville-based nonprofit The Period Project, said.

Culbreath said nearly one in five menstruating South Carolinians can’t afford the products they need for their periods.

It’s what’s known as period poverty, and Culbreath’s organization works to assist these South Carolinians.

“A lot of employers have no idea that period poverty exists and doesn’t understand how it impacts them from an economic standpoint,” she said.

“Period poverty is a lot more common than most people realize. One in five adults miss work because they’re not able to get a period product, and one in four school-aged children miss days of school because of this,” Lidow added.

A fiscal impact report found local governments combined would lose about $1.4 million annually by exempting these products from sales taxes, while the state would be out about $6 million each year.

Advocates say in light of the nearly $14 billion proposed state budget, that’s not a huge hit for state coffers.

But they content it would be a huge help for the South Carolinians dealing with period poverty so they don’t have to make the decision of whether to buy these products or groceries or gas.

“This could be another opportunity to save one place so they can really have the essentials to live in their current situation,” Culbreath said. “It is important that they have this and all of the products that are needed in order to live in dignity.”

H.3563 unanimously passed the House of Representatives earlier this month and is currently under consideration in the Senate.

South Carolina’s legislative session ends in mid-May, so senators only have about a month to get this bill to the governor’s desk, or else they would have to wait to take it up until January, when the second year of the two-year session begins.

Period products are already tax-exempt in more than 20 other states.