LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Three Michigan women have filed a class-action lawsuit against the state, saying it is unconstitutionally collecting taxes on tampons.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday asks the Michigan Court of Claims to tell the Michigan Department of Treasury to stop collecting taxes on menstrual products and require the Treasury to offer tax refunds for those items.
The plaintiffs argue the tax is a violation of equal protection clauses in both the U.S. and state constitutions because it discriminates against women on the basis of sex. They also call the tax “irrational and arbitrary.”
The suit goes on to say that menstrual products are medical necessities and that other such necessities used by men are not subject to sales tax. It also cites economic disadvantages women historically face, which it says the coronavirus pandemic has worsened.
It estimates that in the last four years, the maximum period for which refunds are allowed, some 2.4 million Michigan women have paid about $27.6 million in state sales tax on menstrual products.
Taxes collected on menstrual products work out to less than .01% of total state revenue annually, the suit says.
Two of the plaintiffs work with a nonprofit called “I Support the Girls,” which distributes items including menstrual products to low-income women. One of them lives in Grand Rapids and the other in Grosse Pointe. The third is a University of Michigan professor.
“I’ve been saying for years, this does have a real impact on people’s lives and it’s an important issue,” state Sen. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, told News 8 Wednesday. “So I’m glad to have that reinforcement from other folks who also see it that way.”
Brinks is among legislators who previously introduced bills to exempt menstrual products from taxation, both last year and in 2017 when she was serving as a state representative. The legislation has gone nowhere.
“My guess is that if we were to pass these bills to correct this injustice, we’d be able to talk with the folks bringing the lawsuit and, hopefully, we would put Michigan in a much better financial position in regards to that, too,” Brinks added.
—News 8’s Lynsey Mukomel contributed to this report.