Pink Tax

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Pink Tax

What Is the Pink Tax?

Gender disparity researchers often refer to the “pink tax,” a markup on goods and services aimed to women that men pay less for comparable items and services. When the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs evaluated 794 items marketed in the city for customers of various ages some years ago, it discovered several instances of gendered pricing. However, scientists have been seeing and studying this occurrence since at least the 1990s.

Key Takeaways

  • Academic research, government studies, and everyday women have found numerous examples of things sold to women that cost more than almost similar products offered to men—and significantly fewer cases of the contrary.
  • The pink tax is not an actual tax, although many women’s fashion goods have higher import duties than men’s equivalents.
  • A pink tax has been discovered on hundreds of items and services.
  • A few state and municipal governments have laws against gendered pricing discrimination. Although legislation have been submitted, the federal government of the United States does not.

Attempts To Regulate the Pink Tax

When a corporation sells a pink product (the female version) for more money than a blue product (the male version), the extra money does not go to the government. The only people who benefit from the “pink tax” are businesses who charge women more than males.

The “tampon tax,” on the other hand, is a real sales tax that many states levy on feminine hygiene products, a cost that is paid mostly by menstruation girls and women (though also, in many cases, by their fathers or husbands).This is a distinct problem from the pink tax, and although it is linked, we will not examine it here. The pink tax also excludes the cost of things such as lipstick and menstruation supplies, which many women use and pay for but most men do not.

Several states have established legislation prohibiting gender-based pricing of goods and services. There has also been at least one federal effort to enact such a legislation. The purpose is to eliminate apparent inequitable pricing disparities. After all, women already earn less than males; why should they pay more for comparable goods and services?

A marketing slogan is “Repeal the Pink Tax.” Gender-based pricing disparities are not a tax, and so cannot be abolished.

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Governor Pete Wilson of California enacted the Gender Tax Repeal Act of 1995 in 1996, forcing retailers to charge the same price to men and women if a service needed the same amount of time, expense, and expertise to perform. It was directed particularly at services, not items, such as haircuts, dry cleaning, clothes modifications, automobile repairs, and other services.

Assemblywoman Jackie Speier, the bill’s author, told the Los Angeles Times that it was the first state legislation of its sort. At the time, this form of obvious pricing discrimination was referred to as a “gender tax.” An previous version of the law, which also targeted items, was defeated.

New York City

Similarly, in 1998, New York City’s then-mayor, Rudy Giuliani, approved legislation prohibiting retailers such as barbers and dry cleaners from charging based simply on gender. It gave the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs the authority to collect penalties from offenders. The legislation specifically bars the exhibition of discriminatory pricing, which means you shouldn’t go into a New York City hairdresser and see a sign that reads “women’s haircut $45, men’s haircut $25.”

Gender-pricing issues may be reported using the city’s 311 website.

Miami-Dade County

The gender pricing discrimination legislation in this Florida county applies to both products and services. The Consumer Services Department of Miami-Dade County is in responsibility of implementing this municipal regulation, which applies to all sorts of vendors, from individuals to corporations. It forbids price discrimination based purely on the gender of the client, but allows for pricing variations depending on the time, difficulty, or expense of supplying an item or service. Complaints may be filed in writing to the department. Those who have been wronged may sue the violator for monetary damages, attorney’s fees, and court expenses.

United States House of Representatives

Speier, who authored the 1995 California measure, also presented a nationwide Pink Tax Repeal Act in 2016. The measure was reintroduced multiple times but never approved. Its goal is “to ban the pricing of essentially equivalent consumer items and services if such products or services are priced differently depending on the gender of the persons for whose use the products are intended or advertised, or for whom the services are performed or supplied.” Companies that break the law risk violating the Federal Trade Commission’s unfair or deceptive conduct or practices laws impacting interstate commerce.

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The Real Pink Tax: Unequal Tariffs on Women’s Goods

Most talks of the pink tax do not include real taxes, but in one case they do: import duties. According to a report released by Texas A&M University’s Mosbacher Institute, apparel firms in the United States pay higher import duties on women’s products such as silk shirts, wool coats, cotton suits, suit jackets, blazers, leather shoes, and golf shoes. Import duties on men’s clothes are higher on cotton shirts, wool suits, synthetic fiber suits, and swimwear. Some items have no gender-based tariff disparities, but others have. Tariffs on women’s products are often higher.

Clothing firms may handle this disparity by raising the price of the item to account for the higher import tax, which may result in a gender-based pricing differential that is dependent on the item’s cost. The alternative is to price both things equally (assuming they are otherwise identical), which implies that either the manufacturer, the merchant, or the buyer suffers a loss. A 2007 lawsuit filed by apparel firms against the United States government attempted but failed to erase these tariff disparities.

The tariff disparity remains. A report published in the journal American Political Science Review in 2020 covers a 20-year examination of tariffs on men’s and women’s clothes in 167 nations. The authors of the research discovered that “imports of women’s items are taxed 0.7% higher than imports of men’s goods” and so contribute to the pink tax. They also discovered that boosting women’s participation in legislatures might aid in the resolution of the issue.

“Governments may contribute to gendered pricing discrimination by imposing different tariff rates on…products that are almost similar in form but for the gender of their intended buyer.” Higher import duties on women’s items are then passed on to wholesalers, then retailers, and lastly women customers.” —From “Women’s Descriptive Representation and Gendered Import Tax Discrimination,” by Timm Betz, David Fortunato, and Diana Z. O’Brien.

Why the Pink Tax Is Not a $1,351 Problem

According to a 1994 research prepared for the measure that the California Senate finally enacted as the Gender Tax Repeal Act of 1995 (AB 1100), women paid $1,351 more per year for comparable items and services than males. This number from 1994 is still routinely referenced as if it were current. The University of Missouri-Kansas City, for example, mentions the amount in a brief write-up on the pink tax, or #AxThePinkTax on social media.

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This amount is exceedingly unlikely to be correct today, and merely adjusting it for inflation would not make it so. Changes in product pricing due to supply and demand, as well as attempts to eliminate gender disparities, have undoubtedly changed the amount since then. It’s reasonable, though, that no one has bothered to update the number since such a computation is time-consuming. Nonetheless, citing outdated numbers does not help women.

How Does the Pink Tax Work?

The pink tax is not, strictly speaking, a tax. It refers to how women pay more than males for the same or equivalent items and services.

Does the Pink Tax Still Exist?

While the pink tax is not a tax, it does exist. A few state and municipal governments have legislation against gender-based pricing discrimination, but the federal government does not.

What Are Examples of the Pink Tax?

The so-called pink tax applies to hundreds of different items and services. Clothing, such as a pair of jeans, or services, like as a haircut, are two popular examples. Another example is girl-oriented children’s toys.

The Bottom Line

Except in the instance of unequal import duties on women’s clothes, the pink tax may not be a tax at all. Hundreds of items sold to women, on the other hand, wind up costing more than almost comparable things offered to males. Evidence of gendered pricing discrimination is undeniably there, even if it is debatable why it occurs or how big or expensive an issue it is.

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