Jaffa Cafes and Pitta bread are exempt from Value Added Tax (VAT) all together, as the tax code deems them basic necessities. VAT is 20% on luxury items such as a watch or a car, and 5% on items recognised as between necessary and luxury, applying tampons and sanitary products.
Due to this, there has been outrage and a campaign to abolish the tampon tax all together, eventually being debated and voted on in the Commons earlier this week after 250,000 people signed a petition calling on the government to axe the tax.
The petition onhad the message: “We need to know why the Government still taxes sanitary products on luxurious grounds, but not helicopters, the maintenance of our private jets, or crocodile steaks.”
Campaigners argued women could save up to £922, based on an average of women spending £18, 450 on sanitary products over the course of their lifetime.
However, MPs voted against the removal of VAT on Tampons and other sanitary products, by 305 to 287 votes. HMRC defended the tax, arguing it was the lowest in the EU under EU law.
The Prime Minister’s official spokeswoman said: “The Government sympathises with the issue here and understands the concerns that are being expressed.”
When in government, Labour slashed the rate from 17.5%, imposed in the 1970s,to 5%. Although, they were prevented from lowering the VAT on the product any further by EU rules.
Conservative Treasury minister, David Gauke, has stated that the government will attempt to negotiate changes on this policy when Britain renegotiates its membership with the EU ahead of a 2017 referendum.
Labour MP Stella Creasy went semi-viral when confronting veteran Tory MP Bill Cash over the issue in parliament, after he did not use the term ‘sanitary towels and tampons’ rather saying “these products”.
11 Tory Ministers showed they were prepared to vote with Labour to end tax, therefore putting pressure on David Cameron and his slim Commons majority to back the removal of the levy.
The tax has been lauded and mocked with a large social media campaign calling for sanitary products to be freed from VAT. Clearly the item is not a luxury, therefore EU law should be reformed to progress from its definition of ‘luxury’. There is evident inequality with men’s razors being tax exempt, whilst sanitary products are still taxed – as soon as the sanitary tax is put in the dust bin of history the better.