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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

State could take sales tax off diapers

A House panel is considering a bill that would eliminate the sales tax on diapers, like these shown May 22, 2012. (DENIS POROY / AP IMAGES FOR HUGGIES)
Daisy Zavala

OLYMPIA – Families across the state could save as much as $122 a year on diaper purchases if the state removes the sales tax, according to the sponsor of a bill a House panel is considering.

“I considered diaper tax a public health issue,” said Rep. June Robinson, the bill’s sponsor. “Diapers are expensive.”

But the bill is also a tax issue.

Over a year, Washington families would save a total of about $22 million if diapers were exempt from state and local sales tax, the Department of Revenue estimates in the bill’s fiscal note.

The department based that on a child using an average of 2,700 diapers a year. Diaper taxes bring in $15 million to the state and about $7 million to local governments.

The money saved on diaper taxes would be significant for low-income and working families, Robinson, D-Everett, said.

After a visit to a local store, she estimated it would be $122 a year, based on using eight diapers a day from a pack of 24 diapers costing $9 with a sales tax rate of 10.5%.

“I just think this is the right thing to do for the people of our state, for families trying to raise kids in this state,” she told the House Finance Committee Thursday.

A lack of diapers can lead to hygiene issues and poor health for children and can put stress on parents, she said.

Toni Sarge, representative for WestSide Baby, a Seattle diaper bank, said the sales tax disproportionately affects single parents and low-income families.

“Once we recognize diapers as a basic need through our policies, we’ll be on the road to truly valuing children and families in our tax system,” Sarge said.

Parents know the panic of reaching into their diaper bag while they’re out and coming up empty-handed, she said. That’s a recurring feeling for families who can’t afford diapers.

“You can at least begin to imagine what the stress of diaper need feels like,” Sarge said.