The tampon tax has been abolished after a six-year long campaign.
The “tampon tax” has now been abolished in the UK, after the government finally honoured a commitment to remove VAT on women’s sanitary products, made back in March.
This change comes after the UK left the European Union on January 1, 2021, as the country is no longer subject to EU rules. Under EU law, members had to apply a 5% tax on tax tampons and sanitary towels, treating period products as non-essential – although having said that, the EU is itself in the process of abolishing the tampon tax. In 2018 the European Commission published proposals to change the VAT rules, which would give countries the right to stop taxing tampons and other period products, but the move has not yet been agreed by all members. The Republic of Ireland has zero VAT on sanitary products as the rate was in place prior to EU legislation imposing the 5% minimum VAT rate on EU members.
Campaigners have welcomed the end to what they called a “sexist tax”, with activist Laura Coryton, who began the Stop Taxing Periods campaign in May 2014, saying it was “about ending a symptom of sexism”. The move follows Scotland becoming the first in the world to make period products free for anyone who needs them (without means testing) in November.
Felicia Willow, chief executive of women’s rights charity the Fawcett Society, said: “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.”
The Treasury has estimated the move will save the average woman nearly £40 over her lifetime, with a cut of 7p on a pack of 20 tampons and 5p on 12 pads. This ban on taxing sanitary products is part of a wider government action to End Period Poverty which includes the roll out of free sanitary products in schools, colleges and hospitals.
Although there is no longer a tax on sanitary products, the Tampon Tax Fund, established in 2015, which allocated the funds generated from VAT on period products to projects supporting vulnerable and excluded women and girls, will continue to provide funding for projects to support them.