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New ballot title submitted to repeal Arkansas ‘tampon tax’ after rejected first attempt

Tampons from the Danbishuang company are the only domestic brand sold in China.
Xinxiang Health Health Products Co.
Tampons from the Danbishuang company are the only domestic brand sold in China.

An advocacy group submitted new language Wednesday to Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin for a ballot initiative to exempt feminine hygiene products from state sales tax, two days after Griffin rejected an earlier attempt.

Additionally, the new proposal would also exempt diapers from sales tax — a change from the initial initiated act offered earlier this month by the Arkansas Period Poverty Project.

The new ballot title repeats the list of feminine hygiene products from the previous title: “tampons, panty liners, menstrual cups, sanitary napkins, and other similar tangible personal property designed for feminine hygiene in connection with the human menstrual cycle.”

In response to Griffin’s statement that the previous proposal was unclear, the new language includes a list of six products that the measure would not exempt from state sales tax:

  • Soap or cleaning solution
  • Shampoo
  • Toothpaste
  • Mouthwash
  • Antiperspirant
  • Suntan lotion and sunscreen

The six products fall under the definition of “grooming and hygiene products” in the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement, an interstate compact that aims to simplify tax laws across 24 member states to reduce the burden of tax compliance for businesses.

Griffin wrote Monday that the first proposed ballot measure failed to address whether it would remove Arkansas’ compliance with this agreement.

The new proposal also seeks to exempt both children’s and adult diapers from sales tax, defining a diaper as “an absorbent garment worn by humans who are incapable of, or have difficulty, controlling their bladder or bowel movements.”

David Couch, the attorney who submitted the ballot language, said he is optimistic that Griffin will approve the new language, though he still believed the initial language submitted Sept. 11 was sufficient.

The language of proposal is similar to a bill that was proposed by a pair of Republican state lawmakers in 2021. The bill, which included the grooming and hygiene exclusion, died in committee.

Arkansas remains one of 21 states that continue to tax period products, despite exempting other health-related products.

According to the Arkansas Period Poverty Project, the proceeds from the tax on period products comprises less than 0.01% of Arkansas’ total state revenue.

“The average menstruator will spend an average of $11,000 in their lifetime on period products, and one in four menstruators in Arkansas struggle to afford period products,” the group said in a news release earlier this month.

Couch said he added the diaper exemption to the ballot language at the urging of members of the public after the first proposed ballot measure brought attention to the period product tax. He added that feminine hygiene products and diapers “are not discretionary items.”

He noted that the state Legislature recently met in a special session and passed a tax cut that reduced the top income tax rate.

“This [tax money] is going to be turned back to everyday working Arkansans,” he said.

To qualify for the ballot, the Period Poverty Project must collect at least 71,321 signatures from registered voters. The measure would appear on the November 2024 ballot, and it would take effect on Jan. 1, 2025.

Tess Vrbin is a reporter with the nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization Arkansas Advocate. It is part of the States Newsroom which is supported by grants and a coalition of readers and donors.