Tennessee lawmakers debate sales tax on pads, tampons and diapers

Tenn. lawmaker pushes to add hygiene products to tax-free weekend

TENNESSEE (WMC) - A Memphis lawmaker is fighting to get feminine hygiene products on the list of sales tax-exempt products during the state’s annual tax-free holiday.

State Sen. Sara Kyle, D-Memphis, said pads and tampons are essential items and access to those products keeps girls in school.

“There are 19 states that do not tax feminine hygiene products,” Kyle said. “I’m asking to make Tennessee the 20th. Even just for a weekend.”

Tennessee lawmakers debate feminine hygiene sales tax

Kyle’s bill got attention when during a hearing in the Senate Revenue Subcommittee last week. Subcommittee Chairman Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, expressed concern people would buy the products in bulk.

“I would say since the sales tax holiday there really is no limit on the number of items someone can purchase,” Hensley said. “ I don’t know how you would limit the items.”

Commission in support of lifting tax on feminine hygiene products

Kyle responded to the comment again Tuesday.

“I can only say I hope they do,” Kyle said. “If you can’t afford them it’s fine. It’s a biological fact that women are going to have menstrual cycles and they need access to these products.”

Kyle said one in five girls in the U.S. has had to leave or miss school because of lack of feminine hygiene products. She believes the products belong on the sales tax exempt list like other school supplies.

“You go in (to the tax-free holiday) trying to buy for the whole year -- clothes, school supplies,” Kyle said.

In the end, Kyle’s plan to use part of the governor’s $10 million budget to fund legislative initiatives to make up the more than $132,000 in lost yearly revenue wasn’t good enough for the Subcommittee.

It received a negative recommendation but will be considered by the full Committee.

“We look at the revenue portion of the bill, not the specific content,” Hensley said after the vote.

Ainsley Feeney, the founder and president of PERIOD @ 901 Memphis said in a statement that the organization is working to take down the tax.

“Recently, there’s been some pushback from republican lawmakers on Sara Kyle’s bill. We’re actually working with PERIOD National right now to ensure that the tampon tax is taken down entirely," said Feeney.

State Rep. London Lamar, D-Memphis, is introducing the same bill into the House of Representatives.

The Senate Revenue Subcommittee will also consider a bill that would permanently exempt diapers and wipes from state sales tax next week.

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