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As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, menstrual care products are now considered a qualified medical expense eligible under the IRS Tax Code. As a result, these products can now be purchased with pretax income through a Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA).
This is not the first time Congress has attempted to include menstrual products as an eligible expense. In 2018, the Restoring Access to Medication and Modernizing Health Savings Accounts Act, which was passed in the House of Representatives, included a similar measure. The bill did not reach a vote in the senate.
The way menstrual products are taxed has long been debated. While these products are necessary for the health of people with periods, they are still considered a luxury in many places around the world. In fact, 30 states still charge a sales tax on menstrual products, classifying them as non-essential purchases – often known as the “tampon tax.”
See related: The pink tax: What it is and how you can battle it
Right now, it is unclear whether menstrual products will continue to be an eligible purchase with HSAs and FSAs when the CARES Act expires. But advocates are optimistic that their current status as a qualified medical expense will set an important precedent that could lead to lasting change.
“Now that the federal government has acknowledged that menstrual products are indeed a medical necessity for those of us who use them, new groundwork can be laid for more expansive policies on core issues of menstrual access and affordability … [It is a] more far-reaching acknowledgement of the intersection of women’s health and the economy,” wrote Jennifer Weiss-Wolf and Julia Morrison in Ms. Magazine.
Founder of Period Equity – which advocates for accessible, affordable and safe menstrual products – Weiss-Wolf plans to use the CARES Act to strengthen Period Equity’s case for exempting sales tax on menstrual products in states where it still exists.
Whether this becomes a milestone for future change or not, it will at least provide a temporary relief for many facing financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic.
See related: The hidden cost of being a woman