Stop Taxing Periods. Period. / petition

The ongoing battle of the tampon tax

On the 11th March, a group of 60 women and two men demonstrated outside Downing Street with a petition with nearly 300,000 names on it, calling for action from George Osborne.

And the reason for the outrage? Because women across the country are still having to pay tax on tampons and other sanitary products – so called “luxury items” – because an unavoidable monthly biological process is, of course, a luxury that only we women are allowed. Other items such as crocodile steaks, sugar flowers and helicopters, are not classed as luxury items, and therefore don’t require the 5% tax. A luxury item can be defined as something “inessential” – would you say that cleanliness and sanitation is an “inessential” part of your life?

Whilst condoms and other contraceptives are given free from the NHS, women still have to pay for, and be taxed on, sanitary products that they need to stay healthy and hygienic. The demonstrators outside Downing Street won’t stand for it any longer, and neither should we.

Other items such as crocodile steaks were not classed as luxury goods

The 5% tax on tampons reflects the broader aversion that our society has towards periods. It is very telling that there were only two men at the tampon demonstration and; whilst obviously it is a more pressing issue for women – it is still blazingly clear that men avoid periods like the bloody plague (excuse the pun), and the fact that the main three party leaders, Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat, are all male does not bode well for the success of the campaign.

Nick Clegg has already admitted that the issue is not something will appear in the Liberal manifesto, and David Cameron gave only loose promises about looking into it. If periods were something these men suffered from, would they be hastier in getting rid of this tax?

Warwick’s own Women’s Officer- Josie Throup – commented, “it’s a bloody disgrace that the main party leaders suddenly care about this issue, when it seems to me like a cheap attempt to get ‘the female vote’”. Interestingly, only Ed Miliband has really committed himself to tackling the issue and who knows if this will even be carried through.

Josie brings up the issue that this problem can be seen as purely a ‘female’ one. However, taxing sanitary products that are vital to the sexual health of women should be seen as a purely human issue not just a female one; just as adults are invested in the health of children – although it is not directly relevant to their own needs. The whole mentality seems to stem from the ‘ew’ reaction that is associated with anything even remotely menstrual related, from jokes about it being ‘“that time of the month’” to feeling mortified when you drop a tampon out of your bag on the way to the bathroom. Now these childish reactions are coming under attack – much to the general male population’s discomfort.

An anonymous male Maths student, whilst being against the tampon tax itself, said: “I’d be a bit freaked out if a girl started talking about her period. Not really something I want to hear about.”

Would you say that cleanliness and sanitation is an “inessential” part of your life?

Chemistry student Rachel Lai-Cheong gave her verdict on the unfair tax sayings, “it seems to me like just a money-making scheme, everyone needs tampons”. Profiting wfrom the inconveniences of women needs to stop now.

Alex Ball furthers my sentiment, stating that “I find it very strange that tampons are considered a luxury item. Their use is part of the month to month lives of many women and girls. They aren’t a product bought just for the sake of it as a treat; they are a necessity for many people. This taxing seems particularly odd when, as I have heard, men’s razors are taxed as necessity items. I don’t doubt that they are, but I would say that tampons are equally, if not more, necessary.”

Even marketing companies for sanitary products are constantly promoting the discreetness of their products, as though it is something that women need to hide, and I personally have felt the need in the past to kick my box of tampons under the bed or shove them in a drawer if a guy walks into my room. This is something that affects half our population, yet the majority refuse to discuss it at all.

Yet hope is not totally lost, especially for students. Universities, such as Oxford, Cambridge, and East Anglia are all either in the process of or are already subsidising female sanitary products, making the first steps in righting this presentation of the menstrual cycle. Unfortunately, as Warwick SU does not own any outlets to sell tampons, there is no subsidisation for us – but we can only live in hope!

Sign the petition to abolish the tax.: george-osborne-stop-taxing- periods-period



Comments (1)

  • Stephen Smith

    As a man (with a beard) I’d much prefer tampons and sanitary pads to be tax free – it just feels wrong and unfair for them not to be.

    However there are some inaccuracies in this article.

    To understand the issue, we have to know how VAT works – which is not an easy task. The reasons it’s important to try and harmonise VAT rates throughout the EU is that it’s a key factor in making trade between member states easier, it’s more a less a condition of membership to have harmonised VAT. Fiddling about with it in particular states has massive knock ons throughout the rest of Europe.

    Effectively each country just has three rates – a Standard Rate, a Lowest rate (usually zero), and an ‘other’ rate. in the UK’s case the ‘other’ rate was, once upon a time, the “luxury items rate” and was taxed at a higher rate than standard. Now, however, this rate is known as the reduced rate. So the remaining rates currently are Standard – 20%; Reduced – 5%; and Zero – 0%. (an oversimplification but that’s more or less it).

    To place any new items in the Zero or Exempt category would require legislation in all EU states – it would take a long time, and be very costly. The alternative has been to place tampons in the Reduced category (which sort of used to be called the Luxury category – certainly isn’t any more – and isn’t throughout the EU) – this rate can be varied – but can’t be zero. The effect on taxation of other items in this group makes it less easy to reduce the rate – and if you reduce the rate on one item, you have to reduce it on all of them.

    So it’s a bit of crappy situation – but basically 5% is better than 20%. 20% by the way is the rate that applies to razor blades – something which I also find unfair.

    One of the reasons this keeps cropping up appears to me to be that people for whatever reason, want to highlight a ridiculous situation, and blame the situation on the UK’s subservience to the EU. In reality it’s not really like that – the UK could quite easily challenge this within the EU – but it would undoubtedly be a costly and lengthy process – which would significantly add to the EU budget. So what you do as a government is do a cost-benefit analysis – and the benefit to the end users – women – is effectively 5 pence in the pound on the cost of tampons. Typically you can buy a 48 pack of Tampax at Tesco for around £3.00 – the tax on that is 15p. If you have 13 periods a year and one box sees you through each period (I’m a bloke, I’m just guessing) that’s £1.95 per year in tax, about £80.00 in a life time. Now bearing in mind that Tesco also sell tampons which are considerably cheaper, and also tampons which are considerably more expensive – Ask yourself this – If the tax was reduced to zero, would it mean that I paid less for my tampons ? My guess is that the answer is – not necessarily – it would depend on the market conditions. So that’s probably why there’s not a lot of enthusiasm from politicians. Sooner or later it just has to happen though – it sends a very poor message to women everywhere if it remains the same, irrespective of the cost.

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