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Government urged to remove 20% VAT on period pants 

Period Pants not VAT exempt unlike other period products

Politicians, retailers, and campaign groups have written to the Government urging it to remove the 20% VAT on period pants, the absorbent underwear designed to be worn as a sustainable alternative to tampons and sanitary towels. 

In early 2021 VAT other period products such as pads, tampons and reusable menstrual cups was removed, after years of campaigning from politicians, companies, and charities. However, period pants were still classified as garments, so VAT still applied 

Recent calls to axe the VAT  

Currently, period pants, which are absorbent, washable, and reusable are classified as garments and are therefore VAT levied at 20%. By being reusable, period pants can save money for customers in the long-term and help to reduce plastic waste. But other period products such as pads, tampons and reusable menstrual cups have been exempt since 2021. 

Campaigners have called on the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Victoria Atkins as the minister responsible for VAT, to reclassify period pads as period products, so that they become VAT exempt. 

Paula Sherriff, Former Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, who led the campaign to abolish the tampon tax in March 2016, said, “It is frankly outrageous that any period products should be subject to VAT. 

“We should be encouraging girls and women to use sustainable period products yet once again this Government remain out of touch. 

“Period knickers are an essential element of the fight against period poverty. It took years for the government to abolish the tampon tax, it is now imperative that they finish the job and extend the VAT free levy to Al period products including period knickers.” 

The effects of a VAT change 

Costs for period knickers range from £8 to £46 for a pack of three online, with almost a quarter of women cite cost as a barrier to using period pants, according to a WaterAid survey of women aged between 18 and 54. With a cost of living crisis, campaigners argue that it is imperative that the VAT is removed, to make it cheaper for women and girls across the country. 

ActionAid, an international charity that works with women and girls living in poverty, conducted a poll in May, which found that the number of UK women and people who menstruate who are struggling to afford period products has risen from 12% to 21% in one year, a striking increase. 

Marks & Spencer has launched the new Say Pants to the Tax campaign with the period underwear brand Wuka, promising to pass on 100% of any cost savings to shoppers if it is successful. A five-pack bundle of period pants at M&S costs £35, but would be £28 without VAT, while a pack of three – currently £20 – would drop to £16. 

Victoria McKenzie-Gould, corporate affairs director at M&S, said: “The government made a brilliant start by removing VAT from disposable period products, but we need them to finish the job and level the playing field so that whatever period product someone chooses to use, it is VAT free.” 

Final Thought 

In 2021, it was a tremendous success when the tampon tax was finally abolished, after lots of campaigning, the same now needs to be done for period pants. 

Overall, the push to eliminate the VAT on period pants is aimed at promoting sustainability, reducing period poverty, and making environmentally friendly menstrual products more accessible and affordable to a wider audience. 

Menstruation is a fact of life for women, so why should they have to pay for it? It is a matter of fairness, as a first step to remove the VAT on period pants. 

It also gives women and girls the flexibility to choose the period products they prefer, irrelevant of the price, which is why the government should announce the change, for the chancellor’s autumn statement later this year. 

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