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It’s not bloody over. Why the tampon tax debate won’t be brushed off

What on earth is the “tampon tax”?

The phrase actually refers to luxury taxation the government puts on items they don’t see as essential. Items that are considered essential (therefore exempt from additional tax) are things like; incontinence pads, medical products, razors and children’s nappies. I’m nodding at these and thinking good. Perhaps razors aren’t quite essential but grooming is an important ritual for many people.

But products like tampons and sanitary towels seem to have slipped under the net and are taxed at 5%. They fall into the category of ‘non-essential luxury items’. Which is ridiculous in itself but when you consider other items that aren’t taxed in this way like Jaffa Cakes, pita bread and crocodile meat, you then begin to see the absurdity of the situation. This tells us that the government would prefer that we’re cleanly shaved rather than wearing a tampon at ‘that time of the month’.

For anyone not on board with this argument, I challenge you to lead a normal life going to work, exercising and generally moving around whilst on your period without sanitary products. These are essential because without them it prevents women participating in public life. We’d all be sitting on the toilet, sorry to be crude, waiting for the bleeding to stop, which could be between 4 to 7 days. And lets be honest, ain’t no body got time for that.

This all sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? Well the government actually reduced the tax from 17.5% in 2001 to the now 5% after Labour MP Dawn Primarolo lead a campaign for it to be changed. The tax was at that rate since 1973.

But why is it so difficult to reduce the tampon tax to 0%? 

During the election campaign earlier this year David Cameron was asked by a teenager why we have a tampon tax. His response was:

“The UK applies a 5% reduced rate of VAT to the supply of sanitary products. This is the lowest rate possible under EU VAT law.”

The reason for this is because VAT laws are an extremely tricky business to change. VAT brackets are linked to other products so simply changing the tax on tampons would seemingly mean a change of taxation on other types of products to. The thing about the EU is that for laws to be passed it needs the backing of the other countries. To make a change like this it would mean affirmative action from Europe, so the first step is getting the UK government on aboard.

Taking action … 

A lady called Laure Corydon set up a petition earlier this year calling for the government. She says “It’s really important we oppose it. Especially when other luxury items such as helicopters aren’t taxed. Nor are edible sugar flowers, marshmallow teacakes and medical products.”

When handing in the petition (now 250K strong) to Downing Street in March this year they caused quite the stir ..


And then later in April another demonstration was held …

taxing periods

On Wednesday Labour MP Stella Creasy stood up in the House of Commons to argue the case for asking the European government to put a stop to the

Sadly and frustratingly the bill was lost with the House of Commons voting rejected by 305 to 287 votes.

The seemingly hopelessness that some Tory’s are showing over this bills fits well into the framework of their anti EU stance. The argument that the EU has too much of a say over domestic taxation in this country works well with a bill that seemed like a no brainer to many of the British public. Hence why UKIP using it as a campaigning tool in the lead up to the election.

But isn’t Europe a liberal sort of place?..

The problem of tampon tax isn’t unique to the United Kingdom. Whilst aunt Flo (a joke there for my american friends) visits 50% of the population so many countries are unfairly taxing these products. In Hungary the tampon tax is a shocking 27%. Slovakia are at 20%, there excuse is that they were under a communist rule whilst the sexual revolution was happening elsewhere in Europe. But places like France are still fighting the government to take down their 20% and Germany at 19% when their caviar is only at 7%! That. is. crazy.

Our neighbours Ireland put us to shame with their 0% tax, as the regulation was in place before they joined the EU. In America only some states have tampon tax and in Canada it was announced this summer that it was to be abolished. It’s safe to say that Europe needs to catch up!

The fight must continue .. 

We need to let the government know we’re not happy with it’s decision and join with our european friends to make this change across our continent (and there world!).

Earlier this year after feeling frustrated with the tampon tampon tax I decided to have a little protest of my own.Taking inspiration from German artist Elonë, I decided to sick some sanitary towels around East London on a rainy Sunday for the tourists and hipsters to enjoy – if your feeling equally frustrated why not partake in your own ‘bloody’ protest?

shoreditch high street

graffitti tampon

man tampon

Regents tampon


Or you could go the whole hog and create a brilliant spoof video like the brilliant Cariad Lloyd & Jenny Bede.


Basically, we’re not shutting up until this is set right. As Stella said in the House of Commons this week, ‘this is a symptom of an unequal society’. And that ain’t right.

One thought on “It’s not bloody over. Why the tampon tax debate won’t be brushed off

  1. It’s a disgrace isn’t it! I recently stumbled across #TheHomelessPeriod and the thought of not having sanitary items at all seemed ridiculously absurd when they supply condoms for free. It needs to change and it’s great seeing people actually do something about it.

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