Will tampons be cheaper this year? Tampon tax scrapped from 1 January

The tax will be reduced from 5 per cent to nothing overnight as the UK leaves the European Union

On 11 March it was announced that the tampon tax, an additional five per cent cost on sanitary products in place across the UK, had been scrapped as part of Rishi Sunak’s budget proposal.  

The Chancellor confirmed, in his first budgetary speech, that the taxation would end once the UK exited the European Union, which will happen at 11pm on 31 December.

“From January next year there will be no VAT whatsoever on women’s sanitary products,” Mr Sunak told the House of Commons. “And I congratulate all [the] right honourable members who campaigned for this,” he added. 

Value Added Tax was first added to sanitary products in 1973, at a standard rate of 10 per cent, rising to its highest point at 17.5 per cent in 1991. A successful campaign by Labour MP Dawn Primarolo saw the rate come down to five per cent in March 2000, where it has remained since.

The government said it could not be reduced further as five per cent was the lowest permissible due to existing European Union VAT rules, which classified the products as luxuries rather than essentials.  

Since 2015, in a bid to satisfy growing criticism, the VAT collected was ringfenced to be given to women’s charities - proposed as an interim measure to offset the tax until it could be scrapped completely. But the scheme did face criticism over some of its donations.

Now that it is being scrapped altogether, what can we expect to see? Will the cost difference be immediate on 1 January?  

How much will I save?

At 11pm on 31 December 2020, Britain will leave the European Union meaning that the rules regarding taxation of sanitary products no longer apply, and Sunak’s promise can begin.

The government estimates that the tax cut will save an average of around seven pence on a pack of 20 tampons and five pence on a pack of 12 sanitary pads.

Over a lifetime it estimates this will add up to be in the region of £40 saving.

Laura Coryton, who founded the Stop Taxing Periods campaign in 2014 while a student at Goldsmiths University (and eventually gathered more than 300,000 signatures on her petition), tells The Independent, that customers should see an instant money saving.

“All major supermarkets confirmed years ago that they would lower the price of their period products in line with the reduction in tampon tax when such a reduction occurs.   

“Now that it has, we should expect to see shops honour their commitment and if they don't, we will campaign until they do,” she adds.

It is worth noting that in some supermarkets, customers will not notice the difference because the brand had already committed to absorbing the cost of the tax themselves years ago.

For example, in July 2017, Tesco pledged to cut prices on nearly 100 menstrual products in order to shoulder the five per cent for customers. Waitrose and Morrisons followed suit in August of the same year.

So a noticeable difference might only be the case in certain shops or supermarkets.

What else should I know?

 Coryton says that even without the cost saving in your local supermarket, the changing of the VAT rules is “about so much more”.  

“Ending tampon tax is about so much more than this price drop, although that is of course very important particularly to people struggling with rising levels of poverty. It's about ending a symptom of sexism that has cemented the period taboo for decades.”

Coryton says its also about “shutting down a piece of legislation that sent a damaging message about women to society”. “The axing of this tax is a victory for the 320,000 people who signed my petition, and to everyone who believes that period products aren't luxuries.”

In November Germany was praised for reducing the tax on sanitary products from 19 per cent – the same luxury bracket as caviar.

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