Pin It

The UK tampon tax is finally being scrapped

Campaigners are celebrating the change announced in next week’s UK budget, but argue that there’s still more to be done

Finally, some good news: the UK tampon tax is set to be abolished. The change, which campaigners and activists have been working towards for decades, is going to be announced in next week’s budget.

This will mean that sanitary products will lose the five per cent VAT added to their price, making them more affordable and accessible, a change that will come into effect when the UK leaves the EU at the end of the year. (The government has previously claimed that EU law prevented it from getting rid of the tax.)

Campaigner Laura Coryton – who has been campaigning against the tampon tax since starting a petition as a student in 2014 – has commented on the change in a video posted to social media, saying that it’s “a cause for celebration”.

“So many people have been campaigning about this for generations, and finally we’re being listened to.”

Former Labour MP Paula Sherriff, who led an attempt to abolish the tax in 2015, has also spoken out in support of the news, along with notable campaigners and charities including The Red Box Project, which wrote on Twitter: “Good news to see the Govt reaffirming their commitment to removing this sexist anachronism.”

However, Coryton also suggests that this doesn’t mean the fight is over, as the tax is still up for discussion until the December deadline set by the government. “We won’t stop talking until supermarkets respond by lowering their prices,” she adds.

Hayley Smith, founder of FlowAid – a campaign working to provide free sanitary products to the homeless – also points out that, although abolishing the tampon tax is a victory, there is still work to be done to make sanitary products available for all.

“I think it is great news that the tax is being abolished, and it certainly makes products more accessible,” she tells Dazed. “However, accessible doesn't mean affordable and homeless women won't always be able to guarantee that they will be able to afford them.”

Another aspect of the abolition of the tampon tax that does help those most in need, though, is how it changes perceptions towards sanitary products altogether.

“Removing the tax removes the ‘luxury’ tag attached and this changes the way that people perceive them,” Smith adds. “Luxury has suddenly changed to necessity, and people will be more willing to donate products to homeless women.”

“More importantly, they have become hugely accessible for homeless shelters and charities to purchase and weave in their budget, meaning more will be available to the women who need them. We are already seeing the results of young girls in schools having access to free products, and this needs to be extended to homeless and vulnerable women.”

Free period products have been made available to all schools in England following the #FreePeriods campaign by Amika George, who also welcomed the “long overdue” abolition of the tampon tax. 

Lawmakers in Scotland have recently taken the battle against period poverty a step further, working towards making sanitary products “free for anyone who needs them”, with growing support after a pilot scheme was found to be a resounding success.