Beyond Tampons: How Tax Policy Fails Women

In theory, governments aren’t supposed to tax essential items.

Yet every year the CRA collects an estimated $36 million from federal tax on tampons.That's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a tax system that fails many women.

In one of the best examples of a logic vacuum, there's no sales tax charged on cocktail cherries, wedding cakes, chocolate chips or Viagra, according to the organizers of the #notaxontampons petition. But 17 million women must pay tax on a product they use every single month for close to 40 years. That might change now that a House of Commons motion has passed calling on the government to remove the GST from feminine hygine products. But then again all the government promised was to address the measure in a “future budget. And sadly, the tampon tax is small change compared to other ways tax policy fails women.

Remember those much publicized corporate tax cuts that were supposed to get Canada's economic engines revved up and benefit ALL Canadians?  And who can forget the GST cuts.  Take a look at this table by Queen's University Tax Law Professor Kathleen Lahey. It shows clearly who benefitted most. 

Who Benefits From Tax Cuts and Tax Expenditures?

Budget Measures


Women's Share
GST Rate Cuts $10.8 B 38%
Corporate Tax Cuts $10.5B 10-30%
Personal Income Tax Cuts $7.4 B 40%
Parental Income Splitting $2.2 B 12%
Dividend Tax Credit $6.5 B 30%
Capital Gains Exemption $4.2 B 22%
Canada Child Tax Benefit $9.2 B 96%
Dependent Spouse Credit $1.7 B 16%


 As Lahey points out, most of these tax cuts and tax expenditures are regressive.  Only one of them, the Child Tax Credit, goes mostly to women. They have had a major role in growing economic inequality.

The time-worn 'taxing for growth' strategies, make you wonder just who's growth we are supposed to be talking about. 

"These so-called strategies  exacerbate economic inequalities and are particularly gender-regressive," she says.  

And here's another example: Prime Minister Stephen Harper has spent millions touting the benefits of income splitting as a tax policy. Turns out he should have spent a bit more on the actual math behind it.

Harper is asking Canadians to forego $2.2 billion every year to give a very expensive tax perk to wealthy Canadians. Lahey's  math shows that it is wealthy men who will benefit the most. How does that even begin to make sense?

Our tax system needs to work for all of us. It is the engine that can build the services and infrastructure for healthy communities and families and individuals.  So sign the #notaxontampons petition.  And then keep pushing for tax fairness and gender justice so that it isn't just the wealthy and large corporations who are happy with the next federal budget. 

Note: For a more detailed analysis of gender bias in our tax system see: Tax Cuts and Sex Equality in Canada, 1995-2015: Women and girls cannot endure another 20 years of fiscal discrimination by Kathleen Lahey, Queen's University.