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The UK tampon tax will officially be abolished next year
Via Instagram @freeperiods

The UK tampon tax will officially be abolished in January 2021

We finally have a date! As the budget is announced, it’s confirmed that there will be no VAT on sanitary products from next year

After a years-long campaign by activists, the government has finally announced that it will abolish the tampon tax from January 1 2021.

Currently categorised as ‘non-essential, luxury items’, sanitary products are taxed at five per cent, but will have no VAT added from next year. Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the change as part of the 2020 budget, explaining that the levy will be abandoned when the UK’s Brexit transition period ends on December 31. 

According to The Guardian, the tax cut will reduce the cost of a pack of 20 tampons by 7p, while a pack of 12 pads will see a 5p reduction.

The victory comes after a hard-fought battle with the government. 20 years ago, Labour MP Dawn Primarolo successfully led a campaign to cut the tampon tax from 17.5 per cent to five per cent, but since then the government has claimed that EU law has prevented it from being scrapped completely.

Speaking to Dazed, Laura Coryton – who has led the campaign against tampon tax since 2014 – said of the news: “I feel so happy and relieved! We are one step closer to ending period stigma, poverty, and ensuring that mainstream politics is more diverse.”

Although the scrapping of the tax is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t mean that the fight is over. In a video posted to Twitter, Coryton says activists “won’t stop talking until supermarkets respond by lowering their prices”. 

The 26-year-old is also determined to ensure that the tampon tax fund – which sees raised money donated to women’s charities – doesn’t disappear. “Our next campaign will be to ensure the tampon tax fund does not end with tampon tax,” Coryton explains. “Ending tampon tax was a legal duty, meaning it had little to do with the current government. If this government really wants to show their commitment to gender equality, they will keep the tampon tax fund as a form of back payments (as we’ve been paying tampon tax for 48 years!).”

Although, the tampon tax fund has faced criticism since its creation in 2015, after it emerged that beneficiaries included an anti-abortion charity, and that just two of 10 focused specifically on women’s needs.

“We are one step closer to ending period stigma, poverty, and ensuring that mainstream politics is more diverse” – Laura Coryton

Hayley Smith, founder of FlowAid – a campaign working to provide free sanitary products to homeless women – also asserts that there’s still work to be done. “It’s great news that the tax is being abolished, and it certainly makes products more accessible,” she told Dazed last weekend (March 7). “However, accessible doesn’t mean affordable, and homeless women won’t always be able to guarantee that they will be able to afford them.”

Following a campaign by #FreePeriods founder Amika George, free menstrual items are now available in schools in England, and across the whole of Scotland – the first country in the world to provide sanitary products free for anyone who needs them.

The scrapping of the tampon tax is certainly something to celebrate though, especially when it comes to removing stigma surrounding periods. “Removing the tax removes the ‘luxury’ tag attached,” said Smith, “and this changes the way that people perceive them. Luxury has suddenly changed to necessity, and people will be more willing to donate products to homeless women.”