People Can Use FSA or HSA Money to Buy Pads and Tampons

After years of debate, menstrual care products finally count as medical care items.

Here's some good news for anyone who might have missed it: In 2020, lawmakers made it easier for women to buy menstrual products using their health savings accounts (HSAs) or flexible spending accounts (FSAs). Tucked deep inside the CARES Act (H.R. 748) is Sec. 3702, Inclusion of Certain Over-the-Counter Medical Products as Qualified Medical Expenses. This amendment to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 says that money spent on menstrual products—defined as tampons, pads, liners, cups, sponges, or similar products used for menstruation—counts as expenses incurred for medical care, meaning you can use funds in your HSA account or FSA to purchase these essentials.

These sorts of savings accounts work by allowing people to deposit money into accounts pre-tax, meaning they’re reducing the tax money taken out of each paycheck while setting aside money to specifically cover medical expenses. Until 2020, menstrual products were not officially recognized as medical care items, so people could not purchase them with HSA or FSA funds without risking a penalty. (The fight to change that had raged for years.)

While it doesn’t eliminate the so-called tampon tax—the fact that tampons and other menstrual care products are subject to a sales tax while other basic necessities and personal medical items, including groceries, are not—it does mean people purchasing menstrual items are able to do so with tax-free money, potentially saving large sums of money over the course of their lifetimes.

It’s a small change—most menstruating people will probably end up saving as little as a few cents each month—but a positive one, and one people have argued in favor of for years. When that time of the month rolls around again, you can pick up a fresh box of tampons with your HSA card or request a reimbursement from your FSA: At this point, we’ll take any win we can get.

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