The “tampon tax” in the United Kingdom will not be scrapped. Instead, George Osborne has said that the money raised will go into women’s charities, rather than into the Government’s coffers. The decision was made during the Autumn Statement, despite many women arguing that tampons are not a luxury item but a necessary one.
This debate has been ongoing for a number of years, but it gained steam recently. Women find it ironic that food items like Jaffa Cakes are classed as necessities and are not taxed in the UK, but tampons and other sanitary products are. Women do not choose whether they need to use sanitary products during their menstrual period, and they say that they are being treated unequally, as men do not need to use them.
The “tampon tax” is a VAT rate set by the EU Parliament. Items that are considered necessary have zero VAT. These include children’s clothes, some foods and men’s razors in some cases. Items considered luxuries will have a VAT set at a minimum of five percent, increasing to as much as 20 percent in the United Kingdom. Obsorne said that he cannot scrap the tax completely, as it would breach EU law. It is another argument from EU skeptics to leave the EU altogether.
Rather than seeing the money raised from the tax go into helping the country’s deficit, Osborne announced that the money would go into women’s charities instead. Many of these help women who are victims of domestic or sexual abuse. The decision has already been hit against by critics, saying that women are paying for their own help and support through the “tampon tax.”
The decision came after 300,000 people signed a petition to have the VAT removed from the necessary items. Osborne defended the tax, saying that it was at the lowest he could possibly set it of five percent. Unless the EU changes the law, he cannot reduce it to zero, as tampons are not considered necessary items. He did consider other ways of using the tax, which is why he is now putting the money back into the women’s charities, according to the BBC.
Osborne did go on to say that the government is working on getting the EU law changed. Prime Minister David Cameron is already working on negotiations with the EU, as a way to stay in the group. It is possible that this tax will be one raised as one of the negotiations. Should the UK come out of the EU, it will have full control over abolishing the “tampon tax” completely.
Just recently, the MPs rejected an amendment to the Finance Bill. It would have forced EU negotiation on the amount of VAT changed on all sanitary items. This was hit with arguments from women, saying that too many men have put their voices into something that does not affect them. They should have stood up for women, especially in a government that has already hit women the hardest, according to The Independent.
For the “tampon tax” to be completely abolished, all 28 member states of the EU would need to agree to doing it. There are debates over whether this would ever happen. Labour MP Paula Sherriff says that the VAT is “a tax on women” and “unfair.” Women do not have the choice to have periods, and need to use sanitary products during this time of the month.
During the 1970s, the rate of VAT was at the highest in the UK at 17.5 percent. Labour cut the rate to the lowest possible rate and it has remained there ever since. That does not make women happy about paying the “tampon tax.”
[Featured photo by WPA Pool/Getty Images]