Ohio bill could exempt diapers, baby safety products from sales tax

May 31—A locally backed Ohio house bill would make diapers and other baby care items exempt from sales tax if passed, and proponents say it could help families with finances and safety.

House Bill 118, also called the Baby Products Tax Exemption Bill, would create a sales and use tax exemption for baby products like diapers, car seats, strollers, cribs, baby carriers and baby monitors.

"(These products) are critical to achieving the optimal health for young children," said Jessica Salem, the Dayton Children's Hospital Center for Health Equity executive director. "While most of us take these essential products for granted and just find a way in our budgets, many families find themselves having to choose which ones to buy or even find them out of their reach."

Salem testified as a proponent of the house bill last week at the Ohio Statehouse.

According to the National Diaper Bank, a nonprofit that helps families obtain diapers and other materials, Ohio is home to roughly 550,000 children under the age of 3.

Salem said the house bill could help families buy safety equipment for their infants at a time when infant deaths are occurring at an "alarming rate." In Montgomery County, health officials have reported eight infant deaths due to unsafe sleep practices and other factors this year.

Salem said the use of cribs is a step toward safer sleep.

"Providing a tax relief for a safe crib could mean the difference between being able to afford one, and that could save lives," she said.

The average American family also spends $80 monthly on diapers, according to the diaper bank.

Salem said most childcare facilities require parents to provide diapers for their infants, and families who struggle to purchase diapers have to make decisions about childcare arrangements as a result.

Last year, the Center for Health Equity at Dayton Children's Hospital supported more than 115 families with child safety products, and another 250 families were assisted with securing car seats, according to Salem.

"We work with families every day who share how difficult it is to raise children with the rising cost of products, childcare and other infant essentials," Salem said.

Diapers for children and adults are sales-tax exempt only during the back-to-school sales tax holiday during the first weekend of August under current law.

In Ohio, sales tax is set at 5.75%, with counties having their own set sales tax rate in addition to the state's. Montgomery County has a sales and use tax rate of 1.25%, according to the Ohio Department of Taxation.

A financial analysis of the bill found that the exemption of baby products from sales and use tax in 2024 could result in estimated losses of between $18.6 to $30.7 million to the state's general revenue fund and between $4.8 to $7.9 million to county and transit funds.

"These losses will likely grow in future years, at a pace that generally matches inflation of the products being exempted," according to the analysis.

But a measure that could help families provide for their children is a "step in the right direction," said Lora Miller of the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants.

"When consumers have more money in their pockets, they're able to use that money to buy other needed items that aren't tax exempt," she said. "As retail sales increase, the commercial activity tax burden increases, which benefits the state and helps offset the sales tax loss."

The bill was introduced earlier this year by state representatives Melanie Miller (R-Ashland) and Nick Santucci (R-Howland Twp.) and serves as companion legislation to a senate bill with the same mission. It's progressing through the Ways and Means Committee in the Ohio House of Representatives.

"The Baby Products Tax Exemption Bill recognizes the challenges Ohio families face in raising children and aims to alleviate their financial burden," Miller said in a statement. "By providing tax exemptions for essential baby products, we hope to encourage people to stay in Ohio as we work to invest in our families."

State Reps. Andrea White (R-Kettering), Bill Dean (R-Xenia), Bernie Willis (R-Springfield) and Thomas Hall (R-Madison Twp.) are co-sponsors of the legislation.