Bill proposes sales tax exemption for feminine hygiene products

Every time the cash register rings at a store, sales tax is typically part of the transaction. There are exceptions to the rule -- especially for items considered household staples - like groceries and prescription drugs.

This week Austin democrat, Donna Howard, filed HB 219 which if signed into law would add feminine hygiene products to the sales tax exemption list.

"I would hope it would be common sense for just about everybody on the house floor as well as the senate, that feminine hygiene products are a medical necessity and we should not be taxing those,” said Rep. Howard.

Others items like diapers for adults and children, Howard said, should also be exempted from sales tax.

"These are necessities for Texas families, the cost do add up, it should not be a controversial thing."

According to a recent state report, sales tax exemptions and discounts in 2015 totaled $42-billion. That number is expected to grow to over $50-billion by 2020.

State lawmakers can make up for the lost sales tax revenue, according to Howard, by weeding out inefficient programs in the state budget and redirecting some revenue streams.

The list of exempted items is pretty long. And the tax code can be a tad confusing. For example, regular shampoo is taxable. Medicated shampoo like for dandruff is exempt. Antiperspirant; exempt. But deodorant, you'll pay sales tax.

"As you add more exemptions, what are you really doing, the government is picking winners and losers throughout the process,” said Vance Ginn with the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Ginn favors a different kind of tax code expansion plan.

"We really need to look at what is exactly being taxed and try to make it cheaper for everyone. Right? That’s what’s going to provide more opportunity for families to put more food on the table and buy clothes and everything else they need to do on a daily and weekly basis, so why not broaden the base as much as possible and lower the tax rate and sales tax rate on everyone,” said Ginn.

While that point may foreshadow a coming debate - the idea of adding feminine hygiene products to the exemption list is showing some signs of political traction --- so far- 4 other similar bills have been filed for the upcoming session.

To look at the sales tax exemption study, click here