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A bill pending in the Senate would eliminate Mississippi’s sales tax on menstrual hygiene products, contraceptive products, baby formula and diapers — taxes that advocates say disproportionately affect the state’s low-income women and women of color.
The sales tax on menstrual products, often referred to as the “pink tax,” has been eliminated in 20 states. Mississippi is not only one of the 30 states that do tax these necessities, it does so at the highest rate in the nation. Mississippi’s 7% sales tax rate is only matched in Tennessee and Indiana, two states that also tax these products.
An individual might not feel the full impact of this tax each time they buy these products, but it adds up to a significant tax burden over time. Advocates estimate eliminating the pink tax would deliver millions of dollars in tax relief to the state’s 1.5 million women each year.
“I think everyone can agree, no matter what side of the aisle that you’re on, that putting money in people’s pockets is a good thing,” said Vidhi Bamzai, a fellow in the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi’s Women’s Policy Institute program.
Bamzai and her fellowship cohort have focused their attention this year on advocating for this bill. Forced to go fully virtual because of the pandemic, they’ve relied on lobbying individual legislators and social media outreach to drum up support.
Advocates for repealing the pink tax point to an unfairness they see in the state’s tax system, where luxury items like drinks from vending machines are not subject to sales tax, but medical products that are necessities for people who menstruate are taxed.
“We’re thinking really deeply about issues that specifically impact women and children in Mississippi… and this has a direct impact on women every single day,” Bamzai said.
Bamzai also stressed the relief delivered by this bill wouldn’t just benefit women. The taxes on diapers and baby formula takes money from family budgets, so many men and children feel that burden.
“This bill really is beneficial to all Mississippians, even though it seems like, with the tampon element of it, that it primarily impacts women,” Bamzai said.
This is not the first time that these tax cuts have been proposed in the Legislature. In 2016, Sen. Hillman Frazier, D-Jackson, had these cuts amended into a bill concerning tax exemptions for certain medical equipment and supplies. That bill passed both the Senate and the House, but it later died on calendar after leaders chose not to bring it up for floor votes.
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