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Calif. Class Takes on Tampon ‘Luxury Tax’

SAN JOSE (CN) - A California woman says in a class action that the Golden State charges sales tax on tampons and sanitary napkins because it considers them luxury items rather than medical necessities.

Nicolle DiSimone filed her class action in Santa Clara County Superior Court on March 23, naming the state of California and its executive director of the Board of Equalization Cynthia Bridges as defendants. DiSimone says the sales tax on tampons and pads violates her 14th Amendment rights to equal protection and due process.

In her 16-page complaint, DiSimone says California's 4.75 percent sales tax on tampons and sanitary napkins "is a proxy tax on women for being women. Conversely, men enjoy the benefit of not paying sales tax on products like facial cleansers, lotions and creams that are not as necessary for men as tampons and sanitary napkins are for women."

DiSimone claims this government action is part of the "pink tax" complex, which financial experts describe as the premium women are charged for products and services including clothing, personal-care products, dry cleaning and vehicle maintenance.

"Only men - a class of persons who never experienced menstruation - would consider feminine hygiene products a luxury and not a medical necessity," DiSimone says in her complaint. "Recently, President [Barack] Obama surmised, 'I suspect [the tampon tax exists] because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed.'"

DiSimone also notes in her class action that the California Board of State and Community Corrections recently adopted a policy giving female inmates as many sanitary napkins and tampons as they need.

"If the Board of Equalization's classification of feminine hygiene products as luxuries were true, the Board of State and Community Corrections is incentivizing female inmates to remain incarcerated with all-you-can-use tampon and sanitary napkin privileges," DiSimone says in her complaint.

She says that the state's tax board collects $11.4 million in taxes annually on tampon and pad sales. Meanwhile, Congress found in 2001 that 73 million women used tampons and - assuming this figure remains unchanged and California still represents 12 percent of the national population - 8.8 million women make up DiSimone's proposed class, the complaint says.

In addition to class certification, DiSimone seeks a court declaration that the tampon tax is unconstitutional and a ban on California's enforcement of it. She also asks the court to order the state to refund all taxes it's collected on feminine hygiene products since 2013.

DiSimone is represented by Devon Lyon of Signal Hill, California, and Kevin Mahoney in Long Beach, California. The attorneys did not respond to phone calls and emails requesting on Monday.

The Board of Equalization did not respond to phone calls requesting comment on Monday.

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