French parliament votes to cut 'tampon tax' VAT on women's sanitary products

The change brings the charge broadly in line with the UK

Jon Stone
Tuesday 15 December 2015 10:49
In the UK crocodile meat is considered essential, but tampons are not
In the UK crocodile meat is considered essential, but tampons are not

The French parliament has voted to cut the country’s so-called “tampon tax” from 20 per cent to 5.5 per cent after a second vote on the issue.

Representatives in the National Assembly backed reducing the VAT rate on women’s sanitary products after prime minister Manuel Valls said the Government had put money aside to pay for the tax cut.

The change brings France broadly into line with the UK, where the charge on women’s sanitary products is 5 per cent.

The UK government is lobbying the EU’s European Commission to be able to remove the rate entirely – a policy that is not currently permitted by EU law.

The UK’s tampon tax has been at 5 per cent since 2001 after a campaign by Labour MP Dawn Primarolo. The Government says this is the lowest allowed by the European Commission.

Chancellor George Osborne announced in his Autumn Statement that money raised by the 5 per cent VAT charge would be transferred to women's charities.

The tax is applied to the products because unlike condoms or razors they are not classed as “essential” by the Commission.

Campaigners say the distinction is sexist and reflects the predominantly male-gendered outlook of lawmakers who drew up the rules.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls

French MPs had previously rejected a cut in the tax in March. The Government has since come out in favour of the change, however.

Prime minister Manuel Valls said the move was “a step in the right direction”.

In August Australian states and territories decided against removing its 10 per cent goods and sales tax (GST) charge on sanitary products.

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