200,000 men and women want to scrap the tampon tax and yesterday they knocked on the door of 11 Downing Street
A petition demanding that Westminster abolish the current 5% tax on sanitary products has now been signed by an unignorable 200,000 signatures.
Yesterday, the petition really was unavoidable for George Osborne: it was handed in to 11 Downing Street by protesting women and men with placards and tampon balloons.
So, what’s with the outrage? You may be surprised to learn that, currently, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) categorises tampons and sanitary towels as ‘non-essential, luxury’ items. Yes, that’s right: luxury. It’s a bizarre catergorisation that has existed since 1973 and yesterday wasn’t even the first time women have demanded ‘radical’ change. But is it really that radical?
If you look at products that are exempt from taxation you may start asking more questions. Petition organiser, Laura Coryton, kick-started her online campaign last year, asking why menstrual products are classed and taxed as ‘non-essential’ and ‘luxury’ when ‘crocodile steaks, edible sugar flowers or helicopters’ aren’t.
Good question, Laura.
Way back in 2000, improvements were made when VAT on tampons and towels were dropped from 17.5% but many women still argue that a 5% tax on an unavoidable monthly cycle leaves women worse off financially than men for a large proportion of their adult lives.
The road to a 0% tax is a difficult one with decisive power resting at the feet of the EU. You see, the tampon tax isn’t just a UK specific problem. In fact, here in the UK our sanitary tax is actually the lowest in the whole of the European Union. If you’re a woman menstruating in Hungary, for instance, you’ll be taxed 27% for the luxury.
As an HMRC spokesman said to BBC Newsbeat yesterday: ‘The application of VAT in the EU, including rates and flexibilities afforded to member states such as the UK, is governed by EU law.’
Laura Coryton and the 200,000 who signed yesterday’s delivered petition are undeterred, however. Armed with an ever-increasing brigade of supporters – including men – and a hashtag, #endtampontax, the fight continues.
Laura Coryton’s message was heard loud and clear yesterday: our periods may be unavoidable, but a debate about ‘luxury’ tax can’t be dodged.
In a VAT world where sanitary towels are losing out to jaffa cakes and flapjacks isn’t it about time we started talking about periods unashamedly? And yes: that includes you, Westminster.
Do you agree that sanitary products shouldn’t be taxed as a ‘luxury’ item? Let us know your thoughts.