Kentucky lawmakers asked to exempt diapers from state sales tax

By: - September 20, 2023 5:10 pm

Sen. Cassie Chambers Armstrong, D-Louisville, holds up a grocery store receipt for diapers as she explains a proposal to exempt diapers from the state’s sales tax during the September meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Appropriations and Revenue. Her total was $202.41. She paid $11.46 in sales tax. (LRC Public Information)

If a family can’t afford diapers, they may leave their child in one for too long, resulting in rashes or worse, experts told members of the Kentucky legislature’s Interim Joint Committee on Appropriations and Revenue Wednesday. 

That’s why they joined forces with Sen. Cassie Chambers Armstrong, a Louisville Democrat, to ask that lawmakers consider removing the 6% sales tax from diapers during the next legislative session. 

A bill draft shared with the committee would exempt both adult and children’s diapers from the tax. 

The state could lose $6.1 million in general fund dollars on the move, according to a fiscal impact statement from the Legislative Research Commission. 

But Chambers Armstrong said she believes that is a “high” estimate. 

Deanna Hornback (KET screenshot)

“We know that families, whenever they are undergoing the financial strain of having a new child, every dollar you put into their pocket, they reinvest back into buying things for that child,” she told her colleagues. “I expect that if we lower the price of diapers, we will see families buy other types of things they need for that baby.”

Deanna Hornback, who runs Kentucky’s only diaper bank through St. Bernadette Catholic Church in Louisville, likened diapers to public restrooms. 

“We all expect when we go to a restaurant or we go to an event that they provide restrooms or porta potties for us to use,” she said. “With a baby, we need to give them that same respect. Their diaper — it is … their porta potty, it is their restroom all the time.” 

Lacey Gero, manager of state policy at the National Diaper Bank Network, said that diaper banks around the country have seen a 200%-600% increase in need for diapers since 2020. 

Lacey Gero (KET screenshot)

“Diapers are expensive and families nationwide are feeling the effects,” said Gero, who spoke to legislators virtually. “Families could use a break.” 

Should Kentucky exempt diapers from sales tax, it would join 18 other states and Washington D.C. in doing so, according to the National Diaper Bank Network

Diapers for one child cost around $80 monthly, according to Louisville’s Office for Women. Those who can’t afford that may not be able to go to work or take their children to child-care centers that require parents to supply diapers. 

These families must also rely on charitable organizations, Chambers Armstrong said, since public programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, more commonly called WIC, do not assist with diapers. 

“We already don’t charge sales tax for other necessary items such as groceries or prescriptions,” she said. “This would merely identify that diapers are a necessary item. It’s a health issue. If babies don’t have access to enough diapers, they end up in the hospital and that’s something we want to avoid.” 


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Sarah Ladd
Sarah Ladd

Sarah Ladd is a Louisville-based journalist from West Kentucky who's covered everything from crime to higher education. She spent nearly two years on the metro breaking news desk at The Courier Journal. In 2020, she started reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic and has covered health ever since. As the Kentucky Lantern's health reporter, she focuses on mental health, LGBTQ+ issues, children's welfare, COVID-19 and more.