"An Unfair Tax on Girls": Invoice targets Mississippi's highest tax on menstrual hygiene merchandise within the nation – Every day Chief

Sales tax on menstrual products, often referred to as the "pink tax", has been abolished in 20 states. Not only is Mississippi one of the 30 states that tax these necessities, but it does so at the highest rate in the nation. The 7% sales tax rate in Mississippi is equivalent to only Tennessee and Indiana, two states that also tax these products.

A person may not feel the full effects of this tax every time they purchase these products, but this creates a significant tax burden over time. Proponents estimate that abolishing the pink tax would bring millions of dollars in tax breaks to the state's 1.5 million women each year.

"I think anyone, no matter which side of the aisle you are, agrees that putting money in people's pockets is good," said Vidhi Bamzai, a staff member at the Women's Policy program Institute in Mississippi.

Bamzai and her fellowship cohort have turned their attention this year to lobbying for this bill. Forced to go completely virtual due to the pandemic, they have relied on individual lawmakers and social media to lobby to rally support.

Advocates of the pink tax abolition point to an injustice they see in the state's tax system, where luxury goods such as vending drinks are not subject to sales tax, but medical devices necessary for people with menstruation are taxed.

"We think very deeply about issues that specifically affect women and children in Mississippi … and this affects women directly every day," said Bamzai.

Bamzai also stressed that the relief provided by this bill would not only benefit women. Taxes on diapers and baby food take money out of the family budget, so many men and children feel the burden.

"This bill is truly beneficial for all Mississippians, even if it appears that the tampon element affects women primarily," said Bamzai.

Senator Hillman Frazier, D-Jackson, is a JSU alumnus

This is not the first time these tax cuts have been proposed in legislation. In 2016, Senator Hillman Frazier, D-Jackson, had these cuts turned into a bill providing tax exemptions for certain medical devices and supplies. This bill was passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, but died later on the calendar after leaders decided not to put it to the vote.

"This is an unfair tax on women," said Frazier. "Men don't share the same burden … that puts women at a disadvantage when it comes to how they spend their money on things they really need."

Frazier believes that this year's bill has a better chance of becoming law at this session as there are more women in the legislature than in 2016 who "can be strong advocates of this position". He also believes that there is a hunger for tax breaks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which comes with a wider awareness of the inequality of these taxes in general.

"It takes time to educate a male-dominated body on certain topics," Frazier said.

Although Mississippi women are still severely underrepresented in the Capitol, the legislature is slightly less male-dominated than in 2016. Women now have 17 of the 122 House seats, three more than in 2016. Women also hold 11 of the 52 Senate seats in total the representation of women in the legislature has risen from 13.2% to 16.1% since 2016. The legislature is still much whiter and wicked than the state of Mississippi.

In 2019, Louisiana and Georgia lawmakers introduced bills to repeal these taxes. Both measures ultimately failed, but led to separate measures that were criticized by proponents for being insufficiently criticized. Georgian legislation has earmarked a one-time allocation of $ 1.5 million in the 2020 state budget to provide menstrual products to schools and community centers in low-income areas. In June 2020, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed a bill giving local governments the power to exempt menstrual products and diapers from all or part of sales tax.

With other states grappling with the waiver of taxes on these essential products, Bamzai believes this is an opportunity for Mississippi to lead the south in this area. The bill must be out of the Senate by February 24 to continue the legislative process.

"I think it's a great opportunity for Mississippi to be first in something really good," said Bamzai.

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