The tampon tax has hit two big bouts of controversy this year - first when it was revealed funds from the tax went to an anti-abortion charity, and second when it was revealed that it would take the EU nearly 18 months to overturn the 5% levy on sanitary products.
But one bright spot is that supermarket retailer Tesco has announced they will cover the 5% tax on behalf of customers. It will apply to nearly 100 products including sanitary towels, panty-liners and tampons.
Laura Coryton, leader of the ‘Stop Taxing Periods’ campaign who began the Change.org petition to abolish the ‘sexist’ tax welcomed the news.
Talking to HuffPost UK she said: “Tesco’s new period scheme is a bold and brave one. Reducing their period products by 5% to cover tampon tax not only helps our protest against the sexist tax, but it also helps to fight period poverty across the UK, too. I hope to see more retailers following their groundbreaking footsteps. Period!”
Talking about the reason behind the decision, Michelle McEttrick, Tesco Group Brand Director said: “For many of our customers, tampons, panty liners and sanitary towels are essentials products.
“However, the cost of buying them every month can add up, and for many women and girls it can be a real struggle on top of other essential items.
“That’s why – as a little help for our customers – we are reducing the cost of these products by five per cent.”
Tesco previously committed to passing on the five per cent saving to customers when the Government’s proposed removal of VAT came into force, but has acted now in order to help customers with their regular shop.
The reason why the tax is so controversial (and sexist) is because it is classed under luxurious, non-essential items alongside - as Corynton wrote in her petition - “helicopters” (and “aircraft repair and maintenance”), “alcoholic jellies” and “exotic meats including crocodile and kangaroo”.
She eloquently adds: “Periods are no luxury. You can ‘opt-in’ to extravagance. You cannot choose to menstruate. Despite this, a whole heap of disadvantages have been created for those who do. Not using sanitary products can lead to health risks, jeopardise maintaining a normal, professional or personal life, and result in public ridicule.
“Equally, by using sanitary products, our Government capitalises on misogynist discourse and period shame that has caused us to fear our own menstrual cycles. It’s a double-edged sword that cuts women on both sides.”
In October 2015 the Government confirmed it would seek a change in EU law to allow any rate of VAT to be applied to sanitary protection, as part of a review of EU VAT rates to be undertaken by the European Commission in 2016.