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Ending the tax on feminine hygiene products in Saskatchewan

January 2, 2011

A friend and fellow yoga mom has asked to draw attention to the fact the Saskatchewan is one of the only provinces in Saskatchewan which taxes tampons and feminine hygiene products.  If you are like me, you probably haven’t thought of it or even knew that the tax was there.  But perhaps it’s time for change…

My friend’s father has starting a campaign to change the sale tax on feminine hygiene products.  Her father, a retired civil servant of the department of Finance in Tax Policy, had this topic cross his desk every so often and even brought it to Treasury Board with to avail.  And frankly, it is a matter of principle, as outline in his letter below.  He has also written two lengthy letters to the Minister, which are also attached as background material.

So, what are we asking you to do about it.  We are hoping that you will write to the Minister in regard to the “tax on tampons”.   Both contact information for email and snail mail are provided (snail mail usually being a more effective way to commincate with the government) and we are hoping you will take a few minutes,  to help us change this tax… in principle.

He also outlines that we are the only province west of Quebec to tax this product. Ontario and BC have even exempted it from their tax harmonization with the GST.

So… please help us out and contact the provincial Finance Minister.  Form letters do not have the same effect so we are hoping for a simple, one paragragh letter on the topic, asking for a change.

And please pass this information on to any females you know that will support the issue… it is estimated that about a 100 letters from women will change this policy.  And if you don’t like your first response, please write back.  That is also important.

Much appreciated,

Kyla Pratt and Marie Berwald

An Open Letter to Women in Saskatchewan

on the provincial tax on tampons and other feminine hygiene products

Since many people find it hard to talk about the general category of “feminine hygiene products”, I would like to start by simply saying:  let’s talk about Saskatchewan’s tax on tampons.  What?  There’s tax on tampons?  Read on!

First, we often overlook the application of sales tax when purchasing various products, especially when we buy them along with other items.  The sales tax is usually shown as a combined amount at the end of the cash register receipt and the application of sales taxes to any one individual purchase is easy to miss.

Therefore, it’s easy to overlook that, in Saskatchewan, two sales taxes apply to purchases of tampons and other feminine hygiene products – the federal Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Saskatchewan’s Provincial Sales Tax (PST).

Frankly, I wonder why any sales tax applies to tampons.  But here’s a really mystifying question:  why are Saskatchewan women the only ones west of Quebec to be paying provincial sales tax when buying tampons? Indeed, it is possible that tampons are actually more expensive in Saskatchewan than they are in the rest of western Canada – just due to the fact that the Government of Saskatchewan applies the PST to them!

  • Feminine hygiene products are exempt from Ontario’s provincial sales tax.
  • They are exempt of Manitoba’s provincial sales tax.
  • They are exempt from British Columbia’s provincial sales tax (and there’s no provincial sales tax in Alberta).

For more information, I invite you to read the attached letters I wrote to the former Minister of Finance on this topic, earlier in 2010.  By the way, Ontario and British Columbia’s exemptions were maintained even when they announced the “harmonization” of their sales taxes with the GST in 2010 – this shows a form of policy insight that seems lacking in Saskatchewan.

The taxation of tampons and other feminine hygiene products in Saskatchewan will only end if women in Saskatchewan say something about it – if Saskatchewan women demand that the tax be removed.

One way to express this demand is to write to Ken Krawetz, Saskatchewan’s current Minister of Finance, and demand that the Government of Saskatchewan stop taxing tampons and other feminine hygiene products.

There are two ways to do this:  e-mail messages and/or conventional letters.  Both methods create documents “within the system” that will help the Minister understand that Saskatchewan’s taxation of tampons ought to stop.

His postal address is:

Honourable Ken Krawetz

Minister of Finance

Room 312

Legislative Building

2405 Legislative Drive

Regina, SK

S4S 0B3

Admittedly, it may be quicker, and easier, to write to him via e-mail.  His e-mail address is:

minister.fin@gov.sk.ca

It is my understanding that an e-mail message will not receive a written response unless it provides a mailing address to which the Minister can send a response.  Anonymous protests are one thing but identifying yourself is part of participating in democracy in a way that will be, ultimately (I hope), more effective.

The Minister’s addresses provide the “where to write”.  “What to write” is up to you as an individual.

  • I recommend being polite but, in saying this, I note that my polite letters to the previous Minister did not yield the result those letters were seeking.  On the other hand, my letters were probably too easy to dismiss.
  • I would also like to emphasize this:  if you do not like the Minister’s response, if and when he responds, write back! This is important! Continue to express yourself.  Writing just one letter may not do it.

I would also like to add that this topic is not necessarily a capital-P political issue.  In Saskatchewan, the taxation of tampons and other feminine hygiene products has been kept in place by more than one administration.  However, 2011 is likely an election year in Saskatchewan – so perhaps now is the time to make this a political issue but this will be up to you.

For some, like the TV commercial this summer, even mentioning the word ‘tampon’ seems to be a challenge.  Ending Saskatchewan’s taxation of tampons and other feminine hygiene products should not be difficult – if enough women demand that it happen.  It’s up to you!

D.A. (David) Pratt   (attachments follow)

December 2010

D.A. (David) Pratt

1527 Parker Avenue

Regina, SK

S4S 4R9

The Honourable Rod Gantefoer

Minister of Finance

Room 312

Legislative Building

2405 Legislative Drive

Regina, Saskatchewan

S4S 0B3

March 30, 2009

Dear Mr. Gantefoer,

It is my understanding that Saskatchewan’s provincial sales tax continues to apply to purchases of feminine hygiene products, making Saskatchewan the only provincial jurisdiction west of Quebec to apply its sales tax to this category of products (the Goods and Services Tax applies to these items across Canada).

I was reminded of this last week when Ontario announced its intention to “harmonize” its sales tax with the GST while maintaining its own sales tax exemption for feminine hygiene products.  I am writing to urge you to use Ontario’s announcement as the springboard to immediately introduce a sales tax exemption for feminine hygiene products in Saskatchewan (this would be a House Amendment to your recent budget).

It is completely unclear to me why the women of Saskatchewan are being essentially “singled out” to pay provincial tax on products that are fundamental to them – I am sure that I do not have to elaborate on their importance.  Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia have all recognized that this category of products is one that should not be subject to sales tax (Alberta does not have a sales tax, as you know).  The Government of Manitoba, having imposed its sales tax on feminine hygiene products as part of an initiative to have the federal government collect its sales tax at the international border, changed its mind and re-introduced a sales tax exemption for feminine hygiene products in what can be considered a stand-alone announcement in one of its budgets – therefore, Manitoba has shown that there is no need to wait for the “right opportunity” to implement an exemption for this category of products.  Last week, Ontario also recognized the importance of the principle of exempting feminine hygiene products from sales taxation.

From a taxation theory viewpoint, the application of sales tax to feminine hygiene products represents a form of regressive taxation.  Many people believe that sales taxes in general are regressive but this is not invariably the case – however, taxes on feminine hygiene products are indeed unfair in this way.  When one thinks about it, feminine hygiene products do not have a wide range of prices.  Therefore it is easy to recognize that purchasers of these products are probably spending roughly the same amount of money on them, regardless of their income.  Thus, it follows that women with lower incomes are probably paying a higher percentage of their income on the sales tax paid on their purchases of feminine hygiene products than women with higher incomes are paying.  The tax paid on these purchases will be more significant to lower income women, even if the actual amounts on tax paid on each purchase are fairly low.

The foregoing demonstrates that the application of Saskatchewan’s sales tax to purchases of these products is unfair.  Therefore, you have an opportunity to improve the fairness of the overall taxation system in Saskatchewan by introducing an exemption for feminine hygiene products.  I believe that the cost of such an exemption would be under $2.0 million annually.  Therefore, the initiative would be a relatively inexpensive improvement to the tax system at a time when the Government of Saskatchewan is still in a financial position to introduce such measures.

Clearly, the introduction of such an exemption would be mainly a matter of principle – a small but symbolic step for the women of Saskatchewan.  I urge you to make this change immediately, in light of the insight shown in Ontario’s announcement last week, so that the women of Saskatchewan are no longer essentially “singled out” to pay provincial sales tax on feminine hygiene products.

Yours sincerely,

[original signed]

D.A. (David) Pratt

D.A. (David) Pratt

1527 Parker Avenue

Regina, SK

S4S 4R9

The Honourable Rod Gantefoer

Minister of Finance

Room 312, Legislative Building

2405 Legislative Drive

Regina, Saskatchewan

S4S 0B3

September 9, 2009

Dear Mr. Gantefoer,

I am writing to you again about fact that Saskatchewan continues to be the only provincial jurisdiction west of Quebec to apply its sales tax to feminine hygiene products (tampons and other items).  In my view, your April 20 reply to my first letter (March 30, 2009) was far from satisfactory.

While I probably did not really expect you to act decisively after the Government of Ontario announced that it will continue to exempt feminine hygiene products when it combines its sales tax with the federal Goods and Services Tax (GST), I was nevertheless angered by your response – it showed absolutely no appreciation of the subject whatsoever.  I honestly expected better of you.  Since our exchange of correspondence on this topic, the Government of British Columbia has joined Ontario in continuing to recognize the importance of exempting feminine hygiene products from taxation (I invite you to check the details of its sales tax “harmonization” announcement).  Other jurisdictions seem to understand the principle of this exemption far more than the Government of Saskatchewan does.  This is deeply disappointing.

Let us take another look at this matter.  I invite you to consider the following chart.

Province Provincial Sales Tax Rates on Feminine Hygiene Products

 

British Columbia Zero – exempt
Alberta Zero – no tax
Saskatchewan 5 per cent
Manitoba Zero – exempt
Ontario Zero – exempt

Speaking mathematically, the provincial sales tax rate on feminine hygiene products is infinitely higher in Saskatchewan than it is in the rest of western Canada.  Since this sounds strange, please consider the following chart that shows the application of the GST in combination with provincial sales taxes.

Province GST Rate “P.S.T.” Rate Combined Sales Tax Rate
British Columbia 5 % Zero 5 %
Alberta 5 % Zero – no tax 5 %
Saskatchewan 5 % 5 % 10 %
Manitoba 5 % Zero 5 %
Ontario 5 % Zero 5 %

This chart demonstrates that the sales tax rate on feminine hygiene products is 100 per cent higher in Saskatchewan than it is elsewhere in western Canada (and Ontario).  Why is this fundamentally important category of products being singled out for such a high rate of taxation by the Government of Saskatchewan?

Frankly, the idea that the revenue collected from application of the sales tax to feminine hygiene products helps to maintain the low general sales tax rate in Saskatchewan, as your “correspondence unit” had you suggest in your April 20 letter, is an insult to the women of Saskatchewan.  Clearly, when one thinks about it, the cost of exempting feminine hygiene products would not come close to endangering the overall low rate of Saskatchewan’s general sales tax.  Nor would the exemption be difficult for the overall treasury of the Government of Saskatchewan to accommodate, even today.  There is no excuse for inaction.

Finally, I would invite you to consult directly with the members of your office staff who actually use feminine hygiene products.  Most people do not think about the application of sales taxes to their day-to-day purchases (this sort of thing is your job, as an elected representative of the people).  Therefore, the women in your office may not voice an immediate opinion on the matter.  However, after you increase their awareness of the subject, I can imagine that they would begin to wonder why sales tax (even the GST) applies to these items.  The fact that they are the only women in western Canada paying provincial sales tax on these items would be even more mystifying to them – especially when this means that the sales tax rate they are paying on this category of products is 100 per cent higher in Saskatchewan than it is in Manitoba, Alberta, British Columbia and even Ontario.  There is simply no good reason for this.

Why should Saskatchewan women be paying the highest taxation rate on feminine hygiene products in western Canada?  I trust that you will change this unacceptable situation in your upcoming budget, if not sooner.

Yours sincerely,  [original signed by D.A. Pratt]

If you found this post interested, you might also like this product review of the Diva Cup

The Diva Cup

Ok. So I don’t normally blog about products but this one is just so great that I’m gonna! The Diva Cup. It’s this silicon cup made right here in Canada that takes care of all of your menstrual cycle needs in one easy to use, environmental, cost effective, tidy and comfortable way.  Some of you already know that I make an effort to reduce my environmental impact where I can. I cloth diaper, recycle, reuse, compost and all that. I thought about what to do around the whole monthly period experience.  Keep Reading

3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 13, 2013 9:21 pm

    Very informative post! I was actually looking for blogs discussing about feminine hygiene products when I stumbled across this post. I find it really interesting to even read more of your previous articles. Thank you for sharing this information to the public as it can be of great help for sure.

    • February 14, 2013 12:03 pm

      Hi there! Thanks for your feedback. You might also like to read my product review of the Diva Cup! 🙂

  2. Freckled Feminist permalink
    June 9, 2014 1:19 pm

    Hi! This comment is possibly a little late, but I stumbled across this when looking for blogs which were covering the current petition against taxes on feminine hygiene products within the UK. This blog is certainly very informative; would you take a look at mine? I’d be very grateful:) https://freckledxfeminist.wordpress.com/2014/06/07/more-bloody-taxes/

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