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Bill to exempt diapers, feminine hygiene products from taxes passes committee

Posted at 5:30 PM, Feb 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-14 19:54:40-05

DENVER — A bill to offer a sales tax exemption for some hygiene products passed its first committee test Monday with bipartisan support. House Bill 22-1055 exempts adult and baby diapers as well as feminine hygiene products from the state’s sales tax.

“For some reason, diapers and period products are not exempt from taxes, this law would put us in the right direction and say that, if it's a medical necessity, which these are, you don't have to pay taxes on them,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

Herod considers a tax on these products to be unfair and says removing it is a small step toward helping families with the increasing costs of goods.

Shawna Atnip is a single mother who works remotely and is also a full-time college student. Atnip has a two-year-old daughter and she says diapers can be very expensive for her family.

“We probably go through $100 in diapers every month. But with wipes, we're well over $100 Just spending, and she also has her little nighttime diapers. So, we're creeping up towards the $200 range now just trying to keep her pampered and clean,” Atnip said.

Living paycheck to paycheck, every dollar counts, and Atnip says the sales taxes on these products don’t help matters.

“When we're living in a state as expensive as Colorado and the taxes are as high as they are, it just adds up and it kind of can suck me dry,” she said.

According to the National Diaper Bank Network, one in three families struggles with diaper needs and the average family spends around $80 per month.

In Denver with an 8.81% total sales tax, that means families are spending roughly $85 per year on diaper taxes.

Groups like the nonprofit WeeCycle try to offer some help to parents by collecting and distributing used baby goods and also formula and diapers.

WeeCycle’s Development Director Lindsey Zaback has seen how much the pandemic has increased the needs of families.

“Families are just experiencing a level of despair that they never had before. A lot of the families that are reaching out to us have never had to ask for help before but because of the ramifications of the pandemic, they're just not able to make ends meet,” Zaback said.

Zaback says families who live in rural areas where there are food or resource deserts are even worse off, paying more on average peer diapers with fewer resources available to help them. WeeCycle’s original goal when it opened in 2018 was to provide 200,000 diapers for families annually.

These days, the nonprofit gives out more than 2 million diapers a year thanks to the help of grant funding made possible by a bill passed by state lawmakers last year.

Still, Zaback says there’s always another family in need of help.

“We field a lot of the email inquiries, I would say four to five a weekend, and throughout the week, another four to five people asking in need of help telling us their stories and it breaks your heart,” she said.

On Monday, Zaback testified in favor of the bill, hoping lawmakers would help pave the way for families to be able to afford some of these necessities on their own.

If passed, the bill and subsequent tax exemption would end up costing the state roughly $4.3 million in lost sales tax revenue in the first year and $9.1 million in the next. However, Herod, who sits on the Joint Budget Committee, is adamant that the state can afford the cost for the sake of helping families.

“What we're acknowledging is that Coloradans are feeling an increase in the cost of their everyday goods, things are getting more expensive out there,” Herod said.

Atnip, meanwhile, says every little bit of money and savings matters for her family, so if she could even save $20 a month on taxes between diapers and feminine hygiene products, it would make a difference.

“That could be $10 in my gas tank that could it'd be $5 towards a gallon of milk that could be $5 towards some food to feed her for the week. It's just it really does make a difference,” she said.

The bill passed its first committee test Monday with a bipartisan group of lawmakers approving it.

If HB 1055 passes, the tax exemption would go into effect starting in January 2023.