Despite being a 20-year-old female with a vast interest in current affairs I only found out about the tampon tax during the General Election campaigns. It simply seemed inconceivable that products such as tampons could be considered a “luxury item” – last time I checked periods have never been considered a wonderful experience? So why would a government that supposedly represents the population (52% of which are female) vote to KEEP the tax?
Words: Daisy Greenaway, Subeditor: Mariya Savova
Here in the UK tampons have a reduced Value Added Tax (VAT) rate of 5%, compared to the standard 20% found on most products. According to EU guidelines 5% is the lowest rate allowed for tampons, however Ireland have a 0% tax on the item whilst in France they add a staggering 20%. To change EU legislation all 27 EU member states must vote in approval. Despite this the Labour Party have opposed the tax since 2000, and the Scottish National Party (SNP) referred to the tax as a “longstanding failure in our tax system”
No one decides to menstruate – there is no “opt-out” option. For centuries our own menstrual cycle has shamed us and it has been seen as “disgusting” and something to try hide. How many of the females reading this had had a friend use the drier in the loos so you could change your pad whilst at school so that no one would hear you open the wrapper? I did this at an ALL GIRLS SCHOOL where everyone had them but you feared the embarrassment of anyone discovering you were “on”. If we don’t use sanitary products we open ourselves to health risks and risk ruining a normal life. However, by using them we allow the Government to make money out of our discourse and fund a misogynist culture.
A petition on change.org asking for tampons to be made tax exempt gained over 260,000 signatures and was even approved by David Cameron who said, “I wish we could get rid of this… There’s a problem with getting rid of VAT on certain individual issues because of the way this tax is regulated and set in Europe.”
A week ago Parliament took this matter to a vote, where the Labour-brought motion was defeated 305 votes to 287. Only three Conservatives defied the whips to vote in favour of scrapping the bill – all men. You can see a full list of those who voted to keep the tax and see just how “represented” we are – most shockingly by the amount of women who failed to oppose the bill.
We reached out to Dr James Davies, MP for Vale of Clwyd, who received a barrage of abuse via social media after he failed to vote against changes to the tax. Somewhat surprisingly he put across some good points as to why he voted as he did:
“VAT on tampons and other sanitary products should in my view be zero rated and it is clear that this is the cross-party will of the House of Commons. However, EU rules currently prevent Parliament from eliminating VAT on these products. As things stand, any change in EU VAT law would require a proposal from the European Commission and the support of all 28 member states! Monday’s debate was successful in obtaining a commitment from the government to take the matter up with members across Europe as part of its renegotiation on our EU membership.”
While the campaign against the ludicrous tax may be temporary stinted, it is certainly not something that is about to disappear. Never fear, however, since you already have so many “luxury items”, why not enjoy them? Below we have some suggestions on how to show off just how lucky you are!