Three Michigan women are suing the state’s Treasury Department over taxes on menstrual products, claiming the taxes violates the equal protections clause in both the state and U.S. constitutions.
The plaintiffs, represented by menstrual equity group Period Equity, is suing to end the tax and to issue a refund to people who have paid the tax in the past four years. The state collects around $7 million in menstrual product taxes each year, amounting to about $28 million in the past four years.
The tax, paid only by people who menstruate, clearly discriminates based on sex and is unconstitutional, according to Joanne Faycurry, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs.
“The Constitution is clear: It’s a discriminatory tax,” she said. “For the government to impose a burden on a product that women must use, it’s a tax on women for being women,” she said.
Especially during a pandemic when people are facing unemployment and women are disproportionately affected economically, this tax relief would be significant, according to Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, co-founder of Period Equity.
“We’ve been working with economists in the state whose research shows that the economic environment and the circumstances of the pandemic have exacerbated the living the lives, financial status and strength of women disproportionately in the state,” Weiss-Wolf said. “We think this is a reasonable and important form of tax relief that the state can offer.”
In both the Michigan state House and Senate, legislators have introduced bills that would exempt menstrual products from sales and use taxes. The proposed law has received a committee hearing in the House but has not made it to the floor. The Senate bill has not had a hearing.
Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has said she would support eliminating the period tax if a bill is sent to her desk. However, the Treasury Department declined to comment because of the ongoing lawsuit.
States that still tax menstrual products have decreased significantly in the past four years from 40 to 30. In Ohio, Florida and New York, lawsuits similar to the current one has prompted the legislature to repeal the tax.
Just like food and medical prescriptions, menstrual products are essential and should not be taxed, the lawsuit said.
“The essential nature of menstrual products has been highlighted during the current economic crisis, with the need for affordable products greater than ever,” the lawsuit said.
Sources: The Detroit News 08/13/20; USA Today 08/13/20; Detroit Metro Times 08/13/20