Lingerie firm Amoena wins tax break on bras for breast cancer victims

The Court of Appeals previously ruled against the company, which argued that special bras for women who have had mastectomies were not normal lingerie

Will Worley
Wednesday 13 July 2016 18:40
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The Carmen bra was at the centre of the dispute
The Carmen bra was at the centre of the dispute

Bras worn by women who have undergone mastectomies are not normal lingerie and should be exempt from import duties, the Supreme Court has ruled.

The decision represents a victory over the so-called ‘mastectomy tax’, which was said to unfairly affect breast cancer survivors.

The case was brought by Amoena, which manufactures bras for women who have undergone mastectomies -- a surgical procedure in which a woman’s breast is removed.

Amoena argued the Carmen mastectomy bra – designed for women who had prosthetic breasts after undergoing the surgery – was not normal lingerie.

The bras are described in the ruling as: “Especially designed to hold silicone breast forms and has left and right pockets to hold the breast forms firmly in place.

“The other design features, which differentiate the mastectomy bra from an ordinary bra are the wide padded straps which help support the weight of the breast form and help to avoid undue stress associated with neck/shoulder problems for the post operated women.”

Despite a previous ruling in the Court of Appeals against the bras, Supreme Court judges said: “By holding the breast form in place” the bra “performs a particular service relative to the main function” of artificial breasts.

Now, a customs duty of 6.5 per cent will no longer be payable on the bra. Women who have undergone breast surgery are already exempt from paying Value Added Tax (VAT) on the undergarment and similar items.

In March, women’s equality campaigners welcomed the news of an end to the so-called Tampon Tax. Female sanitary products were classed as a ‘luxury item’ and subject to five per cent VAT.

After much lobbying, David Cameron announced in Parliament that, thanks to the relaxation of EU tax rules, "Britain will be able to have a zero rate for sanitary products, meaning the end of the tampon tax."

However, by May, Chancellor George Osborne was criticised by campaigners for not following through on the promise.

There was nobody from the company available to speak with The Independent on Wednesday afternoon.

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