Taxpayer asks:

Tell me this isn’t true. I got an email today that says that Congress is considering an extra tax on toilet paper. The email says that the Democrats have passed law to tax toilet paper to prevent global warming. I don’t believe in global warming and I think this is a stupid plan to tax us more. So tell me I’m wrong, taxgirl.

Taxgirl says:

While I haven’t received one of these emails, I can tell that something is making the rounds because I’ve received a number of similar questions. Some folks have even claimed that there’s a “per flush” tax. So, I figured that something had to have triggered all of this outrage…

And I found it.

But since you wanted me to tell you that you’re wrong, I will on a significant part of your question: the so-called “toilet paper tax” is not law.

What’s getting all of the fuss is the Water Protection and Reinvestment Act of 2009, also known as H.R. 3202. The bill was introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) just last week and despite the rumors making rounds, it is not a solidly Democratic bill. As of yesterday, there were twelve co-sponsors, four of which are Republicans.

The bill is in very early stages: it has not even gone through committee. As of July 17, it was referred to several committees, including the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment.

And now for the text of the bill. There’s a lot in the bill (it’s not a small bill) but I’m just going to focus on tax. The bill would impose a tax on the sale of containers of water-based beverages (4%); water disposal products (3%) and pharmaceuticals (.5%). The tax would be imposed on the manufacturer, producer, or importer and not the retailer or consumer. The tax is intended to be temporary and would end on December 31, 2015.

Of course, the devil’s in the details and that’s what is attracting the most attention…

Water-based beverages are defined as containers of water (duh) and those flavored waters or any beverage “created by mixing water with other liquids, flavorings, vitamins, or other ingredients where the resulting product is at least 50 percent water by weight.” There are a number of exceptions including medications, alcoholic beverages, and concentrated beverages.

The most controversial bit is the definition of “water disposal products” which includes “soaps and detergents, toiletries, toilet tissue, water softeners, and cooking oils.” And there’s your toilet paper tax.

Revenues garnered from the tax would be used for a number of water-related programs including pollution clean up programs and safe drinking water funds. Those programs include replacing sewer systems and stormwater systems and cleaning up “source water” sites that have been contaminated. The tax, together with an additional corporate tax provision, is expected to raise $10 billion and create 250,000 jobs (according to Blumenauer’s web site).

So yes, there’s a proposal to tax toilet paper. No, it’s not yet law. If you have concerns about the bill – or if you support the bill – let your Representative know. Now is the time to speak up. My personal take is that if you don’t complain to your Representative now, you don’t have the right to complain later.

Before you go: be sure to read my disclaimer. Remember, I’m a lawyer and we love disclaimers.
If you have a question, here’s how to Ask The Taxgirl.

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Kelly Phillips Erb is a tax attorney, tax writer, and podcaster.


  1. I don’t care what the proceeds will be used for. I am so tired of being taxed to death. They want ever more money to finance what you have already paid your taxes for. What are they doing with the existing taxes you send in? Pork barrel parades? You wonder why you have less spending power than you used to with the same income. It’s time to toss the whole bunch of politicians out and start from scratch.

  2. PMAC,

    I think that is what “they” are hoping for! and I promise that your friends and family will be grateful you keep using the products.

  3. Many cities & states are sending employees off on furlough….work fewer hours/days, get paid fewer dollars. I suggest we furlough the US Congress, maybe have them work only half, or a third, of their usual schedule. Of course we cut their pay by that amount, but the best part would be half or a third of the crazy schemes they keep dreaming up to take our money. Yes we need to speak up whenever we find out about tricky plans like this to tax toilet paper (!) but the sheer pace of these plans these days is overwhelming. Which is also part of the plan I’m sure.

  4. This is just another in a long list of reasons why you need to stop using toilet paper, or at least lower your usage. Add Bathroom Bidet Sprayers to all your bathrooms and you won’t even need toilet paper any more, just a towel to dry off! Don’t worry, you can still leave some out for guests and can even make it the soft stuff without feeling guilty. It’s cheap and can be installed without a plumber; and runs off the same water line to your toilet. You’ll probably pay for it in a few months of toilet paper savings. Available at these sprayers are clean, green and soon now can even save you money on your taxes.

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