Santa Clara, CA: A discrimination class action lawsuit has been filed by five women against the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, claiming that the 4% sales tax charged by the state on tampons and other feminine hygiene products violates the Equal Protection clauses of the United States and New York State Constitutions. The suit cites the fact that the same sales tax does not apply to "medical" items like Rogaine, adult diapers and dandruff shampoo.
The plaintiffs are seeking a permanent tax exemption for feminine hygiene products and a full tax refund for all women who have purchased tampons or pads in New York over the last two years.
According to the suit, most women spend $70 on tampons and pads annually. The state of New York collects $14 million a year from taxes on tampons from 5 million New Yorkers.
The suit cites the fact that New York State exempts medical items from its sales tax, but excludes pads and tampons from the "medical" classification. According to the Department of Taxation's guide for retailers, feminine hygiene products are "generally used to control a normal bodily function and to maintain personal cleanliness." This differentiates them in the fine print from over-the-counter medication for a "vaginal infection," which treats a "specific medical condition."
However, the plaintiffs contend that pads and tampons are necessary for the preservation of health, especially when compared to chapstick for a coldsore, by way of example.
In February, legislation was introduced that would exempt feminine hygiene products like tampons and pads from state sales tax, calling the tax "a regressive tax on women and their bodies that harkens back to a time when the laws were written by men for women."
Plaintiffs are represented by attorney Zoe Salzman of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP in New York.