Several clothing makers, including Steve Madden, Asics and Columbia Sportswear are suing the government over discriminatory gender-based tariffs. For example, Congress levies a 28% tariff on men’s bathing suits, but only a 12% tariff on women’s bathing suits.
If the clothing companies prevail, they could reclaim close to $1 billion worth of tariffs based on gender differences. For example, the lawsuit claims that the government earned $2.5 million last year from discriminatory tariffs on underpants (penalizing women), $93 million for cotton shirts (penalizing men), $16 million for silk shirts (penalizing women) and $71 million for shoes with leather tops (women again).
Tariffs are the quiet cousin of taxes; you seldom see a charge for tariffs, though they are factored into the cost of a wide array items manufactured overseas. To make the suit moot, the government may equalize tariffs at the higher level, which would hurt clothing makers and consumers alike. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER