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UK government scraps tampon tax

LaToya Harding
·3-min read
Feminine hygiene products are seen in a pharmacy in London, Britain March 18, 2016. Prime Minister David Cameron won backing at a European Union summit on Thursday to end the so-called "tampon tax" that has become a political football for Britons campaigning to leave the EU in a June referendum. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
Chancellor Rishi Sunak first announced that the tampon tax was to be abolished from 1 January 2021 at the March 2020 budget. Photo: Reuters/Stefan Wermuth

The ‘tampon tax’ has been abolished in Britain, meaning that sales taxes on women’s sanitary products have been reduced to zero.

The move was made possible by the end of the Brexit transition period and freedom from EU law mandating VAT on sanitary products. It also forms part of wider government action to End Period Poverty which includes the roll out of free sanitary products in schools, colleges and hospitals.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak first announced that the tampon tax was to be abolished from 1 January 2021 at the March 2020 budget.

As the transition period ended on 31 December, the UK was no longer bound by the EU VAT Directive which mandates a minimum 5% tax on all sanitary products as they are considered to be luxury items and not essentials. This practice was often described as "sexist" by some activists and campaigners.

Ireland is currently the only EU country that does not charge a levy on sanitary products as the rate was in place prior to EU legislation. Other countries such as Australia, Canada, Colombia and India have already abolished the tax, as well as several US states.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “I’m proud that we are delivering on our promise to scrap the tampon tax. Sanitary products are essential so it’s right that we do not charge VAT.

We have already rolled out free sanitary products in schools, colleges and hospitals and this commitment takes us another step closer to making them available and affordable for all women.”

Felicia Willow, Fawcett Society Chief Executive, said: “We warmly welcome the scrapping of VAT on all sanitary products from January 1 2021 and congratulate the Government on taking this positive step.”

“It’s been a long road to reach this point, but at last the sexist tax that saw sanitary products classed as non-essential, luxury items can be consigned to the history books.”

READ MORE: Eight things you probably didn't know about the history of the tampon

The Tampon Tax Fund, established in 2015, has so far allocated £47m ($64m) for charities working with vulnerable women and girls.

The Treasury has also estimated that the move will save the average woman almost £40 over her lifetime, with a cut of 7p on a pack of 20 tampons and 5p on 12 pads.

In November, Scotland became the first country in the world to make sanitary products free.

Members of the Scottish Parliament unanimously approved the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill, meaning that there is now a legal duty for local authorities to ensure that tampons and sanitary pads are available to "anyone who needs them".

Meanwhile, Hungary is home to the worst rate of tampon tax, with VAT charged at a huge 27%. And Croatia, Denmark and Sweden all have a tampon tax threshold of 25%.

Finland, Italy, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania and Bulgaria have a tampon tax of between 20% to 24%.

Romania, Luxembourg, Greece, Austria, Slovakia and Spain, the rate of VAT charged on period care products sits between 10% and 19%.

Watch: 67% of women say taxing period products is sexist