North Dakota lawmakers propose tax exemptions for diapers, tampons

In the last three years, seven states have eliminated taxes on diapers, and 10 states have cut taxes on feminine hygiene products.

Tampons and sanitary pads appear in a box. Meagan Deanne / The Forum

BISMARCK — As rising prices eat into North Dakotans’ paychecks, some state legislators say it’s time to save families money at the checkout lane by eliminating taxes on diapers and feminine hygiene products.

Baldwin Rep. SuAnn Olson, a Bismarck Republican, said she will submit a proposal during next year’s legislative session to exclude baby diapers and children’s car seats from sales tax. The bill has the backing of the Pro-Life Caucus, an unofficial collection of anti-abortion legislators.

Rep. Gretchen Dobervich, a Fargo Democrat, said she’s preparing a bill that would exempt tampons and sanitary pads from sales tax.

Goods sold in North Dakota are subject to a 5% tax, plus local taxes of up to 3%, though lawmakers have approved a long list of sales tax exemptions over the years. The list includes most food, prescription drugs, medical devices and farm equipment.

The state usually collects between $800 million and $1.1 billion a year in sales and use tax, making it the leading source of tax revenue.


Olson, who is beginning her first term in office, said she likes to think of North Dakota as “very family friendly,” and cutting taxes on diapers and car seats would aid parents during a period of high inflation.

“Lots of costs have gone up, and this is a way that we can help young families contain their costs,” Olson said.

Sen. Janne Myrdal, an Edinburg Republican who leads the Pro-Life Caucus, noted adult diapers are exempt from sales tax, but baby diapers are not. That discrepancy alone is a good enough reason to pass the bill, she said.

Dobervich contended that tampons and other feminine hygiene products should be exempted from tax just like other health-related necessities. The tampon tax is an unfair levy on the families that have to pay it, the lawmaker said.

Olson said she would support a tax exemption on tampons, but Myrdal said she likely would not vote for it. The Senate voted down a similar bill by a wide margin in 2017.

Legislative staffers have not yet released an estimate of the two bills’ fiscal impacts. The failed 2017 proposal to cut taxes on tampons would have cost the state about $1.1 million in revenue during the 2017-19 budget cycle, according to a fiscal note.

A nationwide push to phase out taxes on diapers and tampons has recently picked up major legislative victories.

In the last three years, seven states have eliminated taxes on diapers, and 10 states have cut taxes on feminine hygiene products.


Sixteen states now exempt baby diapers from sales tax, according to the National Diaper Bank Network. North Dakota is the only state that exempts adult diapers from sales tax but maintains the levy on baby diapers.

Twenty-three states exempt tampons and other feminine hygiene products from taxation, according to the Alliance for Period Supplies. Five states including Montana have no statewide sales tax.

Minnesota became the first state to exempt tampons and diapers from sales tax in 1981.

North Dakota’s four-month legislative session begins Tuesday, Jan. 3.

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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