It has taken 20 years – no, really, at least that long – but the Tampon Tax is now, finally, gone.
The controversial ‘tampon tax’ has been abolished, as Britain breaks free from EU rules.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak committed to ending the unpopular levy on tampons and sanitary pads in March’s Budget and as of Friday, VAT on the products has been removed.
Brussels laws prevented the Treasury from reducing the VAT rate on the items below 5 per cent.
That’s not quite wholly and exactly correct. The actual rules is/was that you can have things which are exempt from VAT, you can have things that are zero rated. If you do have VAT on something the minimum allowable rate is 5%. Crucially though, you cannot move something from being Vattable down to being either exempt or zero rated. The ratchet only works the one way, only ever upwards.
As to it taking 20 years here is something from that 20 years ago:
It is the tax cut that dare not speak its name – at least not in the Budget announcement. Chancellor Gordon Brown is to slash value added tax on women’s sanitary products – the so-called “Tampax tax” – but was just too embarrassed to say so.
Sustained lobbying from female Labour MPs, led by Calder Valley MP Chris McCafferty, persuaded the chancellor to introduce the change, which ends the policy of treating tampons and sanitary towels as luxury items incurring the full 17.5% VAT rate.
The tax will be cut from next January to just 5% – the lowest possible under European rules limiting the goods that can be zero-rated.
There was obviously some political pressure being applied more than 20 years ago to get to that point.
Which is one of those European Union things really, the system just isn’t responsive. We Brits simply were not allowed to do what many Brits desired, not to apply VAT to tampons. Because, you know, this is something so much better handled by an unelected bureaucracy situated well out of range of those affected.
However, it’s necessary to go on to point out something else. For the past few years the amount raised in this taxationthatmustbelieviednomatterdemocracy has been sent back to varied wimmins’ things:
The purpose of the Tampon Tax Fund is to allocate the funds generated from the VAT on sanitary
products to projects that improve the lives of disadvantaged women and girls. The fund was announced by
the then Chancellor during the 2015 Autumn Statement: “There are many great charities that work to
support vulnerable women. And my Honourable Friend, the new Member for Colchester, has proposed to
me a brilliant way to give them more help. 300,000 people have signed a petition arguing that no VAT
should be charged on sanitary products. We already charge the lowest 5% rate allowable under European
law and we’re committed to getting the EU rules changed. Until that happens, I’m going to use the £15
million a year raised from the Tampon Tax to fund women’s health and support charities”.
The launch of this round of funding demonstrates the Government’s continued commitment to ensuring that
the VAT received from sanitary products is used to support vulnerable and underrepresented women and
girls. This guide introduces the next round of Tampon Tax Funding and provides details of how to apply.
The 2020/21 round of Tampon Tax Funding is inviting charitable, benevolent and philanthropic
organisations from across the United Kingdom to bid into one of three categories: violence against women and girls, young women’s mental health and well being, and a general programme. The criteria for each category can be found below.
The best that could be done under the circumstances.
But here’s the prediction. There will be caterwauling from those who won’t be able to apply for funds next year as the tax no longer exists therefore the funds don’t. But of course, all these wimmins’ things are of such great importance that we shouldn’t stop the spending just because of that inconvenience of reality. Therefore the cry will be that the spending must continue even if the tax does not. Starting in 3…2…1….
Update: I wrote this over the weekend to publish today. And lo, before even publication:
As awful as VAT on sanitary products is, what Rishis missing from his Photoshop jobby there is "we've also cut hundreds of millions of funding to women's charity and aid services". Because as far as I understand it, that money was being diverted that way. No longer for '21-'22
— Sam Hogarth (@samhogy) January 3, 2021