Why are we still paying tampon tax?

tampon tax infographic

It’s “that time of the month” again. It sure does come around quickly! As the UK is in the throes of a snap general election at the moment, I thought it was a good time to bring up the issue of tampon tax (or period tax, if you’re not a tampon fan). Whatever your menstrual weapon of choice – tampon, sanitary pad, menstrual cup, wads of loo roll – you’ll be delighted to know that 5% VAT is added to the purchase price, courtesy of the UK government.

(Actually, loo roll is carries a whopping 20% VAT. Think of that the next time you’re having a wipe!).

There’s nothing more fun when rushing to the supermarket to stock up on period supplies with cramps and a migraine than paying 5% more than you should. That’s right, should. Because sanitary products, unlike helicopters, magazines and lottery tickets, are essential items for almost all women at some point in their lives.

I did a little research on the government’s website and was amazed to find that some luxury items (like the helicopters I just mentioned) are levied at 0% VAT. I checked to see what their stance on incontinence pads was and they are charged at 0% VAT. Incontinence pads are essentially the same thing as panty liners or sanitary towels so why does one get charged at 5% VAT? It doesn’t seem fair to me.

Zero-rated VAT items are often very beneficial to mothers – for example, children’s clothes, physical books and essential food –  but where’s the logic? Why charge 5% tax on children’s car seats but make aircraft repairs 0%? It’s easy to see why people have become confused and disillusioned with government practices in recent years.

Some have blamed the EU, stating that in order to change our VAT rules, all other member states must be in agreeance. This seems like a cop-out to me. And why wouldn’t they be in agreeance, for that matter? With Brexit on the agenda now, the government is flat out of excuses when it comes to ending tampon tax.

In my view, VAT charged on sanitary products may as well be called “lady tax”, one that does not seem to be contributing to any increase in menstruation-related research, services or relief. If you must tax female reproduction, the very least you can do is provide a chocolate subsidy or something more substantial like menstruation leave from work.

Some progress seems to be occuring, with the Green Party and WEP (Women’s Equality Party – yes, I had to Google that) pledging to ditch tampon tax if elected. We’ll see what happens in the coming months. In the meantime, I want to credit Laura Coryton for starting the #EndTamponTax movement and her popular Change.org petition.