New York state's "tampon tax" reflects a double standard that applies the sales tax to menstrual products used by women while exempting items typically used by men, such as Rogaine and condoms, according to a class-action lawsuit filed on Thursday.
"It's a tax on women for being women. And that's wrong," said Ilann Maazel, a lawyer representing the five women who filed the class action in state Supreme Court in Manhattan.
New York is one of 40 states that levy a sales tax on feminine sanitary products, and Maazel said he hoped suing the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance would trigger a national rollback of what he said are illegal taxes.
The five women who filed the lawsuit include an actor, photographer, law school professor, church program coordinator and data scientist.
The lawsuit seeks to end the tax and to refund money to the estimated 5 million women who purchase menstrual products in the state.
The 4 percent state sales tax applied to tampons, sanitary napkins and other products used by women during their monthly menstrual cycle amounts to $14 million a year in New York, Maazel said.
Menstrual products should be included on the list of items exempt from the sales tax because they are deemed necessary to human health. That exemption is already granted to Rogaine, condoms, foot powder, dandruff shampoo, acne soap, incontinence pads and other items, the lawsuit said.
"These are not luxury items, but a necessity for women's health," the lawsuit said.
Women spend an average of $70 each year on tampons and pad, according to the lawsuit.
"Without access to tampons and sanitary pads, women are forced to use unsanitary and dirty rags — which can lead to infections and an increased risk of diseases such as cervical cancer — or have nothing at all to staunch the blood — which poses a risk to the health of women and the public," the suit says.
A spokesman for the state tax department, Geoff Gloak, declined comment.
New York, California and several other states have introduced legislation to exempt menstrual products from their sales tax.