It’s a real headache correcting ‘Tampon Tax’ in red-state Florida

Normally, the email bulletins sent from the Florida Department of Revenue are dry and uninspiring.

You have to be a tax wonk to care. And even then, maybe not.

Recently, the department has issued guidance on such topics as:

“Payments for the Purchase and Lease of Items Used for the Operation or Maintenance of a Municipally-Owned Golf Course” and another gem about “the indexed tax on asphalt.”

And who could forget the “2017 Governmental Leasehold Intangible Tax Valuation Factor Table”?

So it was with considerable surprise that I found myself captivated this month by the subject line of a Florida Department of Revenue “Sales Tax TIP.”

Here’s what it said: “Sales of Products Used to Absorb Menstrual Flow — Corrected.”

Whoa. Not reaching for the delete key on this one.

I was fully absorbed. For starters, I wasn’t aware that there was some kind of malfunction involving products used to absorb menstrual flow. These products were later defined as “tampons, sanitary napkins, panty liners, and menstrual cups.”

And what exactly is a menstrual cup? I would have guessed that was the name of the trophy won by the best college softball team.

One of my readers, Jane Irion, was equally intrigued, and figured out correctly that I was just the sort of person who’d be willing to sort through the bloated bureaucracy of government publications to figure out what’s going on.

She surmised that a bunch of “bleeding hearts” in Tallahassee must be behind this as a way of placating women.

“Perhaps this incredible tax break will help our state entice a younger, female demographic to relocate to Florida,” she said.

Jane’s hunch was correct. This was about a new tax break.

“What’s next, tax-free condoms?” Jane went on. “That doesn’t have a ring to it … well, um … yes, a literal ring, but you know what I mean.”

Slow down, Jane. I’m the guy who’s supposed to do the jokes here. You’re cramping my style.

The Florida Department of Revenue TIP — Was it an applicator TIP? — was issued because the soon-to-be-enacted tax break on women’s hygiene products was entered incorrectly into the Florida Statutes as Section 212.08(7)(ooo), when it should have been section 212.08(7)(nnn).

You see, that’s the kind of excruciating tedium you can glean from digging into a Florida Department of Revenue alert. Excuse me while I lie down with a cool washrag on my forehead for a moment.

Thanks for being patient. I’m back.

Anyway, this all has to do with a legislative initiative in Florida to end what is known as the Tampon Tax.

Earlier this year, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill that would make feminine hygiene products tax free in Florida starting in 2018.

Scott and the other men who run the state legislature have been in a goodies-for-all mood in anticipation of this upcoming election year. Scott’s looking to jump from the governor’s mansion to the U.S. Senate, while House Speaker Richard Corcoran has been eyeing Scott’s place in the governor’s office, along with Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jack Latvala, before he got demoted due to sexual harassment allegations.

So the legislative mood from the usually tight-fisted conservatives has been to shower everyone with their beneficence in anticipation of next year’s election.

Scott released an $87.4 billion budget earlier this month that boosts spending on items he normally would cut: public schools, environmental projects, and new slots for 565 state workers.

Businesses are slated to get $43.1 million in tax incentives. The state’s tourism organization, Visit Florida, is slotted for $100 million. And the state’s drivers would get a cut in the annual registration fees they pay for their vehicles.

Florida’s women? They’re getting tax-free Kotex. Further evidence that politics is a blood sport.

Florida will be the 14th state to eliminate the tax on feminine hygiene products. The change is made by reclassifying the products as a “common household remedy.” It’s estimated to save Florida’s women $11 million a year.

Jane thinks it might help to bring younger women to the state. But that would take getting the word out in some kind of advertising campaign to the 36 states where women still pay tax on these products.

Our state would need a catchy slogan to lure the women here. How about this?

“Florida: for the time of your life — or the time of your month.”

Maybe not. What rhymes with “menstrual cup”?

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