In a major move in the fight against period poverty, tampon tax - the 5% rate of VAT charged on the sale of sanitary products - has finally been scrapped. The change took effect on New Year's Day after Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the decision in his March Budget.
EU law classifies sanitary products as "luxury" rather than essential items and requires members to tax them, but Brexit means a zero rate of VAT for the products can now be introduced. The news comes as a victory for campaigners who have been fighting for years to make sanitary products more affordable and to end period poverty in the UK.
Campaigner Laura Coryton, who started a petition in 2014 against tampon tax, told the BBC it "challenged the negative message that this tax sent to society about women". Coryton also credited former Labour MP Paula Sherriff for playing a huge role in campaigning to abolish the 5% tax. "Lots of exciting things happening today! Can’t believe that as of midnight tonight, tampon tax will finally be axed," she tweeted on New Year's Eve. "Feeling very lucky to have been a part of this with so many others including the amazing @paulasherriff."
It's estimated it will save the average woman nearly £40 over her lifetime, with a tax cut of 7p on a pack of 20 tampons and 5p on a pack of 12 pads.
— HM Treasury (@hmtreasury) January 1, 2021
The move comes a month after Scotland made history to become the first country in the world to offer free and universal period products. In late November, MPs voted unanimously in favour of the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill, meaning there is now a legal duty for local authorities such as schools and universities to ensure that period products such as tampons and sanitary pads are available to "anyone who needs them".
Research from Plan UK in 2017 found that about 10% of girls in the UK have been unable to afford period products; 15% have struggled to afford them; and 19% have changed to a less suitable product due to cost. Meanwhile, period poverty is believed to have surged during the coronavirus pandemic.
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