The UK began 2021 by abolishing a 5% Value Added Tax (VAT) on women’s sanitary products, often referred to as the “tampon tax” and which many activists had described as sexiest.
It now joins the list of countries that have already eliminated this tax, which includes India, Australia, and Canada. The measure had been promised by the British Chancellor of the Exchequer (equivalent to finance minister) Rishi Sunak in March last year, and is part f a wider UK government effort called “End Period Poverty”.
Announcing the tax’s removal, Sunak said, “I am proud that we are today delivering on our promise to scrap the tampon tax. Sanitary products are essential so it’s right that we do not charge VAT.”
Until December 31, the UK was a part of the EU, where period products; such as sanitary napkins and tampons are classified as non-essential, and member states; are required to levy a 5% tax on them. Now that the UK is out of the 27-member bloc, it is not bound by its directives, under which sanitary products; had been subjected to five different VAT rates since 1973 – with the lowest 5% slab being applicable since 2001.
The removal of the tax has thus been praised by women’s rights activists and Brexit proponents at the same time. According to the BBC, the EU itself has been in the process of removing the tax on period products. In 2018, the bloc published proposals to change the tax rules, but these are yet to be accepted by all members.
In the Republicans of Ireland, however, there is no VAT on such products despite the country being an EU member. This is because Ireland’s tax rates were in place before the EU imposed its own tax laws, the report said.
Scotland, which is a part of the UK, made history in November 2020; by becoming the first country in the world to make period products free of cost to those who need them.