I’d like to thank all those who have taken the time to contact me, via email and Twitter, to share their views on the “tampon tax”. I would like to clear up some misinformation about the outcome of last Monday’s vote on the removing of VAT from sanitary products, or the “tampon tax”.
Under Labour, Yvette Cooper spoke of amending the VAT on sanitary products, however was unable to do so. Likewise, the French government have attempted to abolish the same tax, but to no avail. The reason for this is because the tax falls under EU legislation.
EU legislation stipulates that luxury items, sanitary products included even though we do not regard them as a luxury at all, should be taxed between 5%-20% (currently the UK applies a 5% VAT on tampons). Many years ago, during the harmonisation negotiations between EU member states, the UK managed to negotiate a 0% VAT on many “luxury” items, such a childrens’ clothes, certain food products and newspapers, however sanitary products were not part of those negotiations.
EU states have ceded their own individual rights to set VAT rates below 5% because in a free market, people would cross the border and buy cheaper taxed products from another country, should they have full taxing powers. This reflects the risk for example of a consumer from Ireland going to shop in Northern Ireland.
Therefore, to nationally decrease the VAT on sanitary products to 0%, without the consent of the European Commission would be unlawful and ultimately overturned by the European Courts. Last Monday’s debate was not about whether there should be a tax on sanitary products – the UK Government believes there shouldn’t be -rather the debate centred on how get the tax lifted, via the EU.
The outcome of this was an agreement to include a 0% VAT on sanitary items with the government’s negotiations as to the UKs EU membership rules. Therefore this will be included within the powers the UK seek to regain from EU control.
So in short the Government would like to do this but cannot do so without the EU changing its law and will be negotiating with other EU countries to secure this change.