NEW YORK: Menstrual hygiene competitor brands August, Cora, Lola, The Honey Pot, Rael, Here We Flo, Saalt and Diva have launched the Tampon Tax Back Coalition, a joint venture to abolish the luxury tax on period products in 21 states.
Effective on Wednesday, in honor of International Day of the Girl, menstruators who purchase products from any of the coalition’s eight brands online or from a third-party retailer in the U.S., including Target and Amazon, will be reimbursed for the sales tax at www.TamponTaxBack.com.
Consumers who submit their receipt within 10 days of purchase will be refunded the tax via Venmo within 24 hours.
August cofounder and CEO Nadya Okamoto and her team led the efforts organizing the coalition. Okamoto, who previously founded the nonprofit Period, the menstrual movement, has experience building coalitions around the topic of menstruation, many of which included members of the Tampon Tax Back Coalition.
Putting together the initiative felt like a homecoming, she said.
“I’ve always really been interested in coalition building in general. Starting from the nonprofit space and mobilizing in the social movement, the coalition is a huge part of that,” she said. “You use coalition sessions, both to share resources, share a platform and then also just show public solidarity and change public opinion.”
Collaborating on this effort is part of Okamoto’s personal underlying passion to reimagine capitalism as a positive force for future generations. While all of the brands are competitors in the menstrual product space, the overarching issue of the “tampon tax” and its effect on period poverty unites them all under a common cause.
The “tampon tax” refers to the practice of applying a sales tax to menstrual hygiene products such as tampons, pads and menstrual cups. The classification of the products as “luxury” or “non-essential” items in some tax codes results in them being subject to sales tax. This is in contrast to other health-related products that are often exempt from such taxation, such as Rogaine and Viagra, which are considered medical necessities.
“Period poverty is real, and this pink tax is a contributor to that. It’s another example of how female health is at a disadvantage or lack of consideration in this country, and quite frankly, around the world,” said Lola CEO Amy Fisher. “Fighting to eradicate this tax is just one of many initiatives we have to tackle. Hopefully this coalition will make a dent so we can start to recognize and activate on all of the other important issues that face us.”
“I have a 25-year-old daughter. I want to make sure that her reproductive rights and her reproductive health is at the forefront of consideration,” she said
In May 2023, August launched the #TamponTaxBack initiative to reimburse individuals for any tax paid on purchases of the brands tampons and pads when they officially launched in retail to Target stores nationwide.
When Fisher and her team became aware of the concept, they immediately wanted to emulate the effort. Fisher said it didn’t make sense for Lola to compete with the same idea, so she reached out to Okamoto to see if there was an interest in partnering and potentially expanding to other brands.
The Tampon Tax Back initiative will have a single landing page and phone number that consumers of each brand can use to text receipts of their purchases for refunds.
Each coalition member is required to submit a lump sum toward paying the tax back payments that will be replenished as needed. The website will work in conjunction with third-party technology service Aisle to itemize and identify which brands and which skews are being purchased.
“The coalition was really [answering the question of] how do we put our money where our mouth is and not just say we’re coming together on paper, but we’re literally coming together to take a stance on this,” Okamoto said. “We’re putting money towards it. We’re eating into our own margins, even though we’re not collecting the tax. We’re just paying it back.”
The website will also showcase the nonprofit Period Law, a group of lawyers fighting to end the “tampon tax.” The group is another resource that offers its own tampon tax refund activation to file a claim through state tax departments.
Joint efforts form bottlenecks at government offices and serve as a conversation starter at the state legislative level, another outlet for promoting change, Okamoto said.
In addition to the Tampon Tax Back website, the coalition will promote its efforts through a social toolkit, pushing out content via email, SMS and social media channels across the brands.
Okamoto said that PR for smaller brands, such as August, is expensive and doesn’t always have a “guaranteed or necessarily trackable return,” but when it comes to public advocacy, PR and media do matter.
August partners with integrated communications agency SolComms.
“We are such small companies that in the grand scheme of things, none of us have public policy fucking departments, but the corporation’s behind the larger period brands do,” Okamoto said, referencing period legacy brands such as Tampax, Always and Kotex. “I very publicly want to challenge and invite the other larger brands to join us as well because obviously, given that they own so much more of the market that we’re able to make that further impact with them.”
Tampax and Always parent company Procter & Gamble and Kotex parent company Kimberly-Clark did not respond to PRWeek’s request for comment.
The purpose for launching in October, specifically on International Day of the Girl, stems from the majority of menstruators identifying as girls, Okamoto said. While August is a gender inclusive brand, periods in society are equated with girlhood and womanhood.
August hopes launching the coalition this month, in conjunction with Period Action Day on Saturday, will allow for a discourse about gender-inclusive language. The timing of October also aligns with the end of the year and the ability to push through legislation.
“October is the last month that we can make a lot of noise and try to get this on the tables of legislators before they go off for their holiday, end-of-year sessions,” Okamoto said. “If there is going to be legislation drafted or proposed or introduced to be reviewed in the next several months, it needs to be introduced this month.”
Taxation on period products varies by state, with some, such as Tennesse, Mississippi and Indiana, charging as high as 7%, according to the Alliance for Period Supplies.
West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Arizona and Hawaii also maintained a sales tax on menstrual products as of June 20.
Texas was the most recent state to abolish its luxury tax on period products in June, making it the 24th state, including the District of Columbia, to eliminate the “tampon tax.”
The ultimate goal of the coalition is to end the initiative once the “tampon tax” itself has been eradicated in all 50 states. Until such time, the cause will remain an evergreen process for August, according to Okamoto.
Each coalition member is required to commit to at least six months of the initiative although the hope is they remain on for longer.
“Six months won’t even make a dent. It’s going to be very slow unfortunately. We have a long road ahead of us, but state by state it will happen,” Fischer said. Lola also intends to support the Tampon Tax Back cause indefinitely.
“We’ve taken down the tampon tax in 20 states in the last 10 years,” Okamoto said. “If we double the pace of that, we could get rid of the tampon tax in the next five years.”
This article originally appeared on PRWeek.