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Newsnight

Is it taxing being a woman?

  • Newsnight
  • 7 Mar 07, 02:57 PM

towels_203.jpgGlancing at the overnight feedback on Wednesday morning, Newsnight was interested to see the following suggestion, presumably prompted by Martha Kearney’s report about Gordon Brown:

"I would like Jeremy Paxman to ask Gordon Brown what his wife thinks of the levy on tampons and panty liners. The 8% VAT is illegal and I wish the BBC to put this question to Gordon Brown."

It’s a question that has had women up in arms for many years – in fact Newsnight’s editor recalls the issue being on the agenda when he was a young lad at university, (of which the web team has yet to be sent any incriminating photos).

We’re very happy to have this discussion on Newsnight’s forum, but first a little recent history; the applicable rate of VAT is not 8%:

From January 2001, the rate of VAT for eligible sanitary protection products was lowered from the full rate of 17.5% to the “reduced rate” of 5%, in line with EU restrictions.

This followed many years of campaigning for sanitary products to be eligible for a “zero rate” of tax.

In 2006, the reduced rate was also applied to condoms and other contraceptives.

More information can be found at HM Revenues and Customs website.

So where does this leave the debate? The fact is that VAT is applied to sanitary products, albeit at the reduced rate. Does this still amount to a tax on being a woman?

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 03:32 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • terry sullivan wrote:

use non disposables instead

  • 2.
  • At 03:35 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Craig Walker wrote:

Is there no other news to report on! Yes i'm a man and couldn't care less how much they are taxed but surely there must be something more important to have on your program.. I've been listening to some very interesting reports by KLIF network in the US on the good work that's happening in Baghdad, i know these sort of reports aren't inline with the BBC's agenda but it has to be a much more interesting and important story to tell.

  • 3.
  • At 03:35 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Anonymous wrote:

I think children and students (especially from poorer homes) should get these on the NHS like condoms.
I remember using pocket money at 13 to buy sanitary towels and they're not cheap in those circumstances!!

  • 4.
  • At 03:36 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Elizabeth O'Hare wrote:

Not this old chestnut again.

There must be more important issues to address.

I think an early night is called for!

  • 5.
  • At 03:36 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • kim lancaster wrote:

Iraq, environment, nhs, terrorism laws, economy, housing, genocide, poverty, violent crime.

We are the 5th biggest economy in the world.

Please just shut up.

  • 6.
  • At 03:37 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Julian Corner wrote:

"Does this amount to a tax on being a woman?"

Well, only if women use condoms too.

  • 7.
  • At 03:38 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Heather wrote:

Every time I am reminded of this I am incensed - it's unspeakably sexist and absolutely unforgiveable. These are not luxury items, they're absolutely essential, and I just dare any man to tell me otherwise.

  • 8.
  • At 03:39 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Julian Corner wrote:

"Does this amount to a tax on being a woman?"

Well, only if women use condoms too.

  • 9.
  • At 03:40 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Lauren wrote:

Any kind of tax on sanitary products is completely ridiculous. If anything, they should be available free on the NHS.

Woman do not choose to menstruate- therefore why should products to aid this be classed as luxury items?

  • 10.
  • At 03:41 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Leandra wrote:

Of course it amounts to a tax on women!

And by the way, reading your summary history - doesn't it seem that this entire country and economy is being run increasingly along the lines of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

I suppose it comes of losing the resources of an Empire - 60,000,000 of us are now crammed into this tiny island, with no visible means of support (apart from the City finance whizzkids, and for the rest of us taking in each other's washing) -- so I suppose we have to descend to the level of discriminatory tax rates on tampons and sanitary towels.

What HAVE we come to ?!!!


  • 11.
  • At 03:41 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • John wrote:

The statement that the VAT is illegal is the exact opposite of reality. The 5% rate is the amount mandated by the European Union, and Gordon Brown is powerless to reduce it.

  • 12.
  • At 03:42 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Julian Corner wrote:

"Does this amount to a tax on being a woman?"

Well, only if women use condoms too.....

  • 13.
  • At 03:44 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • liz wrote:

Of course it's a tax on being a woman. Women are the only people who need these goods, and when they buy them they are always doing so out of necessity, never out of free choice.

  • 14.
  • At 03:45 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Tizzy Bowman wrote:

Of course these are essential rather than luxury. We cannot stop our bodies menstruating it is a natural act. If men were the ones who needed sanitary protection you can bet your life that it would be issued free on the NHS.

  • 15.
  • At 03:47 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Anthony Ozimic wrote:

If Gordon Brown wants to secure government revenue well into the future, he should levy such a high rate of tax on birth control (a tax on feminism, not women) that women will stop neutering themselves and start mothering the next generation of tax payers, then there won't be any need for stealth taxes like ones on sanitary products.

  • 16.
  • At 03:47 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Geraldine Adams wrote:

It is yet another discrimination against women. OF COURSE sanitary protection is a necessity - or perhaps the few women in parliament should not use it when they have their periods and sit around on Gordon Brown's chair ???!!! What I'd call a "dirty protest" ! Trouble is, what self respecting woman would want to demean herself in this way ? Get a grip parliament and stop this tax !

  • 17.
  • At 03:50 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Liz Geuken wrote:

Yes of course it's a tax on being a woman! I've said that for years!

For a large percentage of her life, a woman has to purchase sanitary protection every month. She has no real choice other than to do this, although there are a couple of alternatives out there now (for example the Mooncup). However even with the Mooncup you may find yourself having to wear additional protection, and you still have to find the £18 or so to pay for it, so that is not an option for some women.

Once you have a daughter who reaches puberty, your expenditure doubles each month too, until she leaves home or is earning enough to fund her sanitary products herself.

Name me one item that a man has no option but to purchase every month for 30 to 40 years of his life!

  • 18.
  • At 03:53 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Shelley Blane wrote:

Although in priciple i can understand the issue and agree that sanitary products should probably be classed as essential rather than luxury goods. If the VAT rate is 5% and the average woman spends about £5-10 a month on said products im not sure how irrate i can get about the £3-6 this would save me annually!

Lets face it - Thanks to Mr Brown along with Mr Blair, it is virtually impossible to find anything that doesnt have an unreasonable amount of tax on it at the moment.
It seems to me that we need to earn an absolute fortune just to meet the tax demands of todays society and still we find out that there just isnt enough money in the pot - Unless, of course, you are in government and have expenses to put through!

  • 20.
  • At 03:56 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Trisha Rodgers wrote:

It most certainly is discrimating against women and they certainly are NOT LUXURY ITEMS - just bare necessities.

  • 21.
  • At 03:58 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Julie Foster wrote:

It is disgraceful to tax something that is essential - would Gordon tax insulin? The fact that it is essential only to women means to tax it is discriminatory. The government would never tax something that was only essential to black people so why is it acceptable to discriminate against women? Lowering the VAT to 5% does not improve matters. Does Gordon know what VAT stands for? Let me tell him, I don't think this product is a value item.

  • 22.
  • At 03:59 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Julia Morgan wrote:

Even at the reduced rate of VAT, the fact remains that sanitary products are NOT a luxury item. This issued has bothered me for many years. I can see no argument against a zero rate of VAT on such products.
Sanitary products are a necessity and it does amount to being a tax on being a woman.
I would also submit for your consideration, that there are many items to which VAT is applied, which do not amount to luxury items and which penalise women more financially than men. Take underwear, for instance, hardly a luxury for either sex. But, for most women bras are also a necessity, which accrue VAT. This, therefore, at least doubles the amount of VAT which women have to pay on underwear.
Though in summer some pubs may insist that men wear shirts, there is no legal requirement for their upper torsos to be clad, whereas for women at least a minimum amount of coverage is required to satisfy the requirements of the law.
It just costs more to be a woman and we are forced to pay more VAT on what are, irrefutably, essentials.

  • 23.
  • At 04:00 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • CP wrote:

I have no problem with VAT on contraceptives, having sex is a metter of choice. If you are female sanitory protection is not.

  • 24.
  • At 04:04 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • RP wrote:

I'm all for Newsnight taking a stand against inequality, but at a couple of quid for a box of tampons, you're looking at around £2.40 tax in a whole year.
This is a pretty derisory amount when compared to the serious discrepancies in salaries and the fact that women still carry out a majority of unpaid domestic work on top of their jobs. I'd say pick your battles more carefully. This trivialises the serious issues that women are still up against.

  • 25.
  • At 04:04 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Paula Varley wrote:

Are disposable nappies taxed? I suspect not. I don't think sanitary products should be subject to VAT, they are essential items, and could no more be considered a luxury item than a nappy. What is the position in relation to incontinence pads, and the Tena lady things that are sold now? How are they rated?

  • 26.
  • At 04:12 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Hannah wrote:

Sanitary products are an absolute necessity for any woman and should not be taxed. This government is laughable if they think that they are a luxury! That would mean a woman's basic biology is optional!

  • 27.
  • At 04:18 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Liz Cable wrote:

The only answer to this question is;
"Yes this is a tax on being a woman." Any other answer would be false.

  • 28.
  • At 04:19 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Sarah wrote:

Sanitary products are indeed a luxury. They're not essential - seats on public transport could easily be washed down after menstruating women have bled over them. Pavements, floors of offices, shops, hospitals etc could have the blood mopped up throughout the day. And a splash of strong cologne to mask the unmistakeable odour.

Any more stupid questions?


  • 29.
  • At 04:23 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • dicky wrote:

i can't quite believe i am debating female mystery products on newsnight and while at the risk of intruding in an area not my expertise i am prepared to yomp across the marsh of tax law.

i understand from the debate in the commons called Fourth Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation
Thursday 23 November 2000
[Dr. Ashok Kumar in the Chair]
Value Added Tax (Reduced Rate) Order 2000 (S.I. 2000, No. 29

Dawn Primarolo said

First, I shall explain why the rate is 5 per cent. and not 0 per cent. I should have liked a zero rate, but we are bound by European agreements not to introduce more zero rates. European law allows a reduced rate for sanitary protection products and we are adopting the lowest permissible rate—5 per cent. [see hansard]


So somewhere in europe is a group of EU officials who think these are not essential items. Do they think those officials might be a man or men?

  • 30.
  • At 04:26 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • David barden wrote:

They are not medical items and should not be exempt from tax.

My glasses are not relieved from VAT.

  • 31.
  • At 04:26 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Grumpy Grizzler wrote:

Of course sanitary products are essential items! Describing them as 'luxury' would assume that there is an alternative that is not luxury....I'd like someone to let me know what this is. Torn pieces of newspaper perhaps?

  • 32.
  • At 04:37 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Dinah Glover wrote:

No wonder there aren't any comments as yet. How aren't sanitary towels and tampons essential items for menstruating women?

  • 33.
  • At 04:39 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Simon Johnson wrote:

As an ex-VAT man, it may help this debate for people to know that the Government is not permitted by law to reduce the VAT rate on sanitary products below 5%.

When the UK joined the VAT system in 1973, we signed up to binding agreements on our VAT rates. This allows us to keep the zero rates we had at the time (on things like books and children's clothes), but it forbids us from introducing new zero rates. The lowest we can go is 5%, and that's what this Government has done on sanitary products, condoms, children's car seats, and various other things over the last few years.

One other thing to note: VAT was never conceived as a tax just on 'luxury goods' which did not apply to 'essentials'. Most people would consider things like toilet roll, soap, shampoo, razor blades, etc. as pretty essential in their daily lives, but they all have VAT on them too - not to mention things like petrol, clothes, shoes and (thanks to the previous Government) gas and electricity used in the home.

  • 34.
  • At 04:41 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Andrei Skvarsky wrote:

I do believe that this amounts to a tax on being a woman, simply because I can't think of any sustainable case for this levy. I think tampons, panty liners and the like ARE essential items if we live in a civilised society.

Andrei Skvarsky

  • 35.
  • At 04:43 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Roy wrote:

What do the French do, they are usually very liberated in such matters, but of course they are essential items, go for it girls.

  • 36.
  • At 04:52 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Jennifer Winter wrote:

If the debate is to if these are luxury rather then essential items, then I would like to see Gordon Brown and societies response to women not using sanitary products or contraceptives.

  • 37.
  • At 05:01 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Manjit wrote:

I've said it once, i've said it a countless times when was the last time Gordon Brown submitted himself to a full-length interview by Jeremy Paxman or even appeared on Newsnight? The last night I can recall him on Newsnight was a feature with Martha Kearney on Britishness (which involved both of them walking around and talking only about subjects that the Chancellor was prepered to address). My own guess and it is only a guess is that most Newsnight viewers would like to see the Chancellor a) be quized by either Paxman or Flanders on his various economic policies b) by Paxman on his future policy agenda for Britain if he becomes PM.

What are the odds that after Gordon Brown does his 10th Budget in two weeks time that he yet again fails to appear on Newsnight. This sort of cowardly action does not bowed well for his time in Number 10 if he does make it. What's he going to do when he has a tough decision to defend? He wo'nt be able to hide behind Blair.

  • 38.
  • At 05:02 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Simon wrote:

This is surely no more a tax on being a woman than VAT on razors is a tax on being a beard-free man! In fact, thinking about it, it sounds like a /perk/ - as far as I can tell from the Revenue website, VAT on shaving consumables is the full-whack 17.5%!

  • 39.
  • At 05:14 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Noel Dobson wrote:

The only way that VAT on tampons could be resolved with any fairness would be for women to make this a serious issue just before an election otherwise it will be seen with a certain amount of humour and then forgotten as it obviously has for some time.
One could say it is a regular money spinner for the chancellor and it does seem unfair as it is not something that can be done without.

  • 40.
  • At 05:27 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • vaughan wrote:

Ladies, you should have it zero rated

but with brown you have no chance, he will put a tax on living to help pay for the disgusting pay and perks these mp's receive.

For god's sake don't vote labour in local or national elections

  • 41.
  • At 05:39 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Barbara Lockwood wrote:

With all our many money problems I find it astonishing to be discussing the cost of sanitary garments,

In this country today it's more taxing to be a pensioner.

Women in this position are capable of working for their needs.

Mrs B Lockwood---Norwich

  • 42.
  • At 05:52 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • JinianVictoria M. Herdina wrote:

Too right this is a tax on women! Why should I be singled out for a personal tax based on my sex? If this is allowed to continue unabated shall we then tax men for being men? JinianVictoria M. Herdina

  • 43.
  • At 05:54 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Beth wrote:

I personally take no issue with the taxation of sanitary towels etc - most are under £2 and I hardly consider it as hugely cutting into my budget or a national matter of grave concern at the moment. What I do object to is the stupid comments made by some of the male contributers to this - terry, women don't wear nappies, and anthony...I'm not even going to bother.

  • 44.
  • At 06:00 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Chris Wright wrote:

"The government would never tax something that was only essential to black people"

Such as what? I've been wracking my brains for several minutes now and can't think of anything. Please tell me!

Does anyone know if toilet paper is taxed? I've wondered this for years now, every time this subject has come up.

  • 45.
  • At 06:03 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Kari wrote:

This is an unfair tax on women. The issue is about how it would be possible to reduce the tax rate from 5% to 0%. Under current EU legislation, the UK cannot unilaterally reduce the tax rate below 5%. We should all remember that it was Gordon Brown who reduced the rate from 17.5% to 5% after years of lobbying by MPs on all sides of the House of Commons and the excellent Superdrug campaign which was instrumental in his decision.

  • 46.
  • At 06:03 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Julie McCabe wrote:

Get rid of the tax - of course! But also get rid of the noxious chemicals that most of these products contain, make them from environmentally friendly cotton and make them biodegradable, then we'll all save more.
What about men having to shave, is that a luxury? I'd quite like to see the House of Commons filled with poilticians with lush beards as a protest against all stealth taxes. Or would we then have the "Beard Tax" again?

  • 47.
  • At 06:16 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Charlotte Reid wrote:

I used this as an example of why women MPs are needed in the House of Commons in a piece of Politics homework. My friends were all shocked that I had the sheer gumption to put 'Sanitary towels' in an essay, but my teacher appreciated it and I got a good mark.

It is stupid. I mean during my period I feel really rough and I do not want to have to put up with a naff piece of tissue. I prefer to concentrate on the fact that I feel like I am dying, I am not joking, than whether everything is being soaked up adequately. Sorry, I tried to phrase it nicely. Having sanitary towels means I can go to sleep and ignore the pain instead. I think that is essential.

The fact that contraceptives has a tax is not a suitable comparison. Whether you have sex or not is an actual choice. Fair enough not many people will choose to be celibate but the choice is there. Just because you are born a girl does not mean there is a choice involved. Being born a girl is not like shouting ‘I want periods’!


We are not actually doing this item on the programme tonight. The issue was raised by a viewer after last night's item about Gordon Brown so we thought we'd allow our viewers to discuss it in the web-only debate.

Peter

'1. At 03:32 PM on 07 Mar 2007, terry sullivan wrote:
use non disposables instead'
GROSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


'12. At 03:42 PM on 07 Mar 2007, Julian Corner wrote:
"Does this amount to a tax on being a woman?"
Well, only if women use condoms too..... '
Women buy condoms too you know!Do you think we rely on men to do that?

I think comment 14 sums it up perfectly! '14. At 03:45 PM on 07 Mar 2007, Tizzy Bowman wrote:
Of course these are essential rather than luxury. We cannot stop our bodies menstruating it is a natural act. If men were the ones who needed sanitary protection you can bet your life that it would be issued free on the NHS.'

I suspect they'd also be boasting about how many they'd got through in a day too!


  • 50.
  • At 06:44 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • louisa wrote:

A luxury item is something that you can do without.

To all the men belittling this debate - can women do without tampons and sanitary towels? Think of the train, bus, coach, restaurant, car, cinema seats you'd have to avoid?

I am sure is a visual you won't enjoy, so support the reduction in tax for these products.

There are plenty of alternatives to using tampons and panty liners. Where did the slang term 'On the Rag' come from? Millions of women around the world cope quite adequately without access to such sanitary products, they just accept that they may have to vary their routine to accommodate the necessary ablutions. There are also plenty of medicines that delay or even stop menstruation altogether.

As for necessary products for men: rasor blades cost far more. Shaving is mandatory in some professions, and very strongly encouraged in most. It is necessary for men well after their female counterparts have reached the menopause, and yet you don't hear cries for shaving products to be tax-exempt. Nor do men have the easy option of hiding their growth under a pair of tights if they are late for work.

1. At 03:32 PM on 07 Mar 2007, terry sullivan wrote:
"use non disposables instead".

What a ridiculous and nasty suggestion. I have to be crude to explain - in 1936 at the age of 10 my periods started. In those days - and throughout WW11 - one had to use non-disposables - in other words strips of rag - usually torn from old sheets. It meant having to keep and wash the used bloody-rags because of the shortage of all materials. It meant having to use elastic and safety pins - it meant discomfort/pain from chafing and was unhygenic (and smelly!). Return to those days? No way!

  • 53.
  • At 07:30 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Carmel Egan wrote:

What about abolishing tax on the least polluting options, e.g. the reusable moon cup.

  • 54.
  • At 07:30 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • kim wrote:

I have to agree with #28...in fact the question made me laugh, are they Luxury or necessity? Until I saw some of the posted comments that negated them as necessity.

How many of us really want to be out purchasing these? Raise your hands?
Ah, I see? And how many of our males want to be seen purchasing them for us? Or for that matter how many of us would welcome them as gifts? Yes, yes, it is getting so much clearer now (so then we do it only because we HAVE to). I think that answers the luxury part.

Should they suddenly disappear as non-essential luxury items, women would have two choices, do as #28 suggested (and leave the men to clean up by the way) or stay home on sick leave each month having to stay close to the bathroom (and leave the men to do all the extra work required, in house and out). Hmmm. Luxury or Necessity?...laughable....Good choice for bringing to the fore.

  • 55.
  • At 08:29 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Julie McCabe wrote:

Get rid of the tax - of course! But also get rid of the noxious chemicals that most of these products contain, make them from environmentally friendly cotton and make them biodegradable, then we'll all save more.
What about men having to shave, is that a luxury? I'd quite like to see the House of Commons filled with poilticians with lush beards as a protest against all stealth taxes. Or would we then have the "Beard Tax" again?

What about toilet paper? This is something to which most of the points made above also relate. Only women tend to use toilet paper after urinating, it's used far more frequently and by many more people to support vital bodily functions that can't be suspended by medication or the passage of time, and yet it's not even subject to a reduced rate of VAT. At least Sanitary Products are...

  • 57.
  • At 09:13 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • baraitalo wrote:

to clarify the questions about non-disposables - they are not "gross", do not smell, are cheaper (after a short while), and are MUCH kinder to the environment.
the basic one is called a 'menstrual cup' and there are a number of brands on the market, nowadays made of not-at-all gross clear silicone. they don't upset the natural biology of things in the way tampons do.
the other non-disposable system are liners and pads, which don't in the least resemble 'rags' - they usually come in pretty colours and are cleverly designed to clip around pants. the materials they are made from are designed for ease of washing by hand or machine.
get over your disgust about perfectly normal, clean, biological events!

  • 58.
  • At 09:51 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • angela brown wrote:

Let's try to concentrate on getting rid of the dammned periods we experience every month - alone.

If we as women have to pay taxes on sanitary pads, let's extend that to a tax on babies' nappies then.
In that way, maybe the men can pay their 'half' on their own male / female family members.
And pay the birth control contraceptives required.
See how they like that then.....

  • 59.
  • At 10:11 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Liam Coughlan wrote:

If Britain had a fair and equitable tax system, and tax revenues were used to deliver superb public services for men, women, kids, the old, sick and handicapped, believe me; few women or men would object to taxation. However, the use of tax to socially engineer the country has created an expensive, ineffective and depressing economy. Men and Women alike have been conned by the feminist movement, and other political groups that converted huge swathes of the population into victims of one thing or another. I doubt there is a single vote left for tampax tax victims. Britain is a land of high taxes, low wages, appalling education, massive social control but streets that have been hijacked by hooligans, thugs, murderers, thieves, vagabonds, looters, moneylenders, some disguised as utility companies, banks, and well known companies.

Brown would probably shave a penny or so from tampons, but he would get it back from fining people for putting them in the wrong coloured bin.

  • 60.
  • At 11:19 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • adam grose wrote:

This doesn't surprise me, this is a world run by men! You only have to look around and we see the results... so taxing another 'necessity' is not beyond our Governments greed. Welcome to the NEW WORLD TAX ORDER!

I'm sure it's about time we stopped collecting income tax on a person's labour under 16,000 GDP?

Tax luxuries, not hard work!!


  • 61.
  • At 11:25 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • The partyline on pantyliners wrote:

We used to think women should get sanitary products for free...but the more they bonk the more they need them so a tax on them seems appropriate to the advantage and gains at the expense of others either to compensate men who lose out or to cover the cost of men who have to keep playing to win them

On that theme..women could be taxed more on clothes that are provocative as could men so that social care is associated with the social power of clothes through VAT...

Some dresses should be VATed at 180% a figure reduced by sale prices...

  • 62.
  • At 11:42 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Lesley Boatwright wrote:

Yes, I agree with RP (post 24) - tax on sanitary protection isn't really the mother of all battles. There are lots of more serious issues about anti-woman discrimination to be tackled still - most of which, I must say, my grannies told me about in the dim, distant days beyond recall. I view the tax with mild resentment rather than burning fury. And if Gordon Brown ever does come on Newsnight again to be interviewed by Jeremy, for heaven's sake don't let them spend the time talking about menstruation.

  • 63.
  • At 12:18 AM on 08 Mar 2007,
  • Lilly Evans wrote:

OK Newsnight, your question is catchy. It certainly got. However, as a woman with scientific background I looked for data behind the story. Things like: how big is the market, who are the main manufacturers in UK, what are the issues with tampons (and other feminine hygiene products) etc.

Before we get all worked up about UK (or mandated by EU) 5% of VAT, I believe it is important to recognise that we pay much higher percentage for advertising of these products! Then come the health issues, like toxic shock incidences and their costs. And, finally we have to factor in issues of disposal, like the cost of clogging the drains!

So, this looks like a proverbial smoke screen for much more important inequality issues relating to women and tax.

I, for one do not buy it. If you ask Gordon Browne about this, he will rightly think you frivolous.

Get a grip Newsnight and pursue REAL issues!

  • 64.
  • At 12:47 AM on 08 Mar 2007,
  • Graham Tattersall wrote:

Many Indirect Tax Schemes hardly make any "Net Profit" for the government once you deduct ALL of the Operating Costs. Small Income Schemes, like this one, along with many other "Reduced VAT Schemes" fall under this heading, and should be scrapped (or Zero rated in the case of VAT), because all they really do is make the Public MISERABLE, create MORE WORK for the Manufacturers, Distributors and Retailers, and HARM TAXPAYERS in general, because it is US who have to pay the wages (and ultimately the "SUPER PENSIONS") for all those Civil Servants who administer the schemes.

Gordon Brown is a DAMNED USELESS Chancellor and GOD HELP BRITAIN if he ever becomes Prime Minister !

  • 65.
  • At 06:09 AM on 08 Mar 2007,
  • zakaria wrote:

I am an Afriacn from Ghana,but you have not post any commentary on Ghana's 50th anniversary.Infact,I will be very happy if you would be updating me on Africa.I WILL LIKE TO KNOW MORE ABOUT Africa politics as well as european politics.I hope you will do me that favour,thank you.

  • 66.
  • At 06:19 AM on 08 Mar 2007,
  • shabbir kazmi wrote:

Despite being man I beleive selection of topis was good.

Having said this there are other issues which need focused attention. We have to hamer the west for being responsible for killing in Kashmir, Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq. Don't allow the US to open another front in Iran to kill more innocenet people.

  • 67.
  • At 10:23 AM on 08 Mar 2007,
  • Leah wrote:

Whether there are more "important" issues to be discussed or not is irrelevant. One topic cannot be ignored simply because there are bigger things going on in the world. Otherwise nothing would ever get dealt with.
Of course tampons and sanitary products should be tax free, even free in some cases (i.e. for low income people, offering a basic selection).
Women do not choose to have a menstrual cycle to deal with and none of you men would be alive if we didn't have one!

  • 68.
  • At 10:29 AM on 08 Mar 2007,
  • Leah wrote:

Whether there are more "important" issues to be discussed or not is irrelevant. One topic cannot be ignored simply because there are bigger things going on in the world. Otherwise nothing would ever get dealt with.
Of course tampons and sanitary products should be tax free, even free in some cases (i.e. for low income people, offering a basic selection).
Women do not choose to have a menstrual cycle to deal with and none of you men would be alive if we didn't have one!

  • 69.
  • At 11:09 AM on 08 Mar 2007,
  • Mr B wrote:

Because there is tax on shaving products (and in many professions men are expected to shave and therefore must do so to keep their jobs) does this amount to a tax on being a man? Ridiculous debate: charge the full 17.5% I say...

  • 70.
  • At 11:25 AM on 08 Mar 2007,
  • Faith Wilde wrote:

This is laughable. I recieved this link via email as a piece of humour, but I soon realised that this was supposed to be serious.

Let's deal with facts.

1) VAT is not a tax on non-essential items. So the question about whether they are a necessity is irrelevant.

2) We are bound by EU law not to introduce any new VAT rates below 5%. Whether we agree with EU law is a different debate. In fact if anybody actually wants to have the sanitary wear VAT debate and get a result from it, they need to first resolve the the EU VAT law debate.

3) Though it irks me to say this as it means defending a man that I consider a bufoon. Gordon Brown has reduced the tax to the lowest level EU law allows; how can that be discriminatory? If anything it is positive discrimination in favour of women.

  • 71.
  • At 06:43 PM on 09 Mar 2007,
  • Sylvia Andreoni wrote:


Glad to see Newsnight is breaking new ground.I suppose there have to be some advantages to the menopause.Cutting edge stuff-inverse ageism through a tax on youth.Personally as I am past 70 the only female protection I need is Tena Lady incontinence pads.

  • 72.
  • At 03:58 AM on 10 Mar 2007,
  • William Edgar wrote:

They shouldn't be taxed. It's quite
ridiculous that they are. Women who are opposed to the tax on tampons and sanitary towels aren't whinging about an imagined injustice. They just don't see why they should have to pay more for a basic necessity.

The tax on razor blades for men should be scrapped too.

  • 73.
  • At 10:05 AM on 15 Mar 2007,
  • pippop wrote:

Frankly the only way to get the message across that sanitary protection is a necessity is to stop wearing them at all and just BLEED..... on buses and trains, in class, on the Bench (at a magistrates court), in the dock, at the supermarket, in bed, on the sofa, on the pavement, in the cinema, at the theatre, etc.

Soon the message will sink in.

In a family, on a low income, with say three teenage daughters and a mother the cost of sanitary protection is no small expense.

  • 74.
  • At 11:23 AM on 15 Mar 2007,
  • laura ward wrote:

I would like to comment on the idiotic, caveman attitudes to sanitary items made by some of your viewers. This is 2007 and true, there are other countries that use alternatives. These places also have no running water, no television (NO RAZORS) mobile phones, which in this day and age is seen as an essential to a lot of people. I think it is unforgivable to make women pay for these items, I myself am fortunate enough to be able to afford tampons, towels etc.. but have not always been, it was not a very pleasant experience. Do people in parliament think about the girls living on the streets? I think not. The VERY least they could do is to make them avliable to people on benefits, that really do find it hard to pay for them, (lets face it they are not cheap) maybe the same way milk tokens are given?

  • 75.
  • At 11:06 PM on 22 Mar 2007,
  • Juliette wrote:

Well, thanks a lot to all of you who think this isn't worth discussing (male and female). I am trying to live on a shopping budget of £10 every 1-2 weeks, including sanitary protection, so that I can get through a PhD. Every time I buy sanitary towels, I have to buy less food. And I'm sure there are many women who haven't chosen to live like this, as I have, but are forced into poverty by circumstance (and don't have interent access to enable them to say so). This matters to us. We go hungry so that we can have protection during periods. So thanks a lot for you support.

  • 76.
  • At 10:33 AM on 18 Jun 2007,
  • olivia 14 wrote:

we should not have to pay VAT on sanitary products infact we should not have to pay for them at all .
people under the age of 25 can get free contraceptive so why not free sanitary products !!!

  • 77.
  • At 12:31 AM on 19 Jun 2007,
  • Jenny wrote:

Simon Johnson wrote: "As an ex-VAT man... When the UK joined the VAT system in 1973, we signed up... forbids us from introducing new zero rates."

No doubt girls and women in the rest of the EU, being as politically powerful as they are (not), have no objection whatsoever (not) to paying tax on puchases of essential sanitary products for themselves and their children (thinking nappies here too).

Anything EU can be changed with the right pressure. The first step is for supposedly reliable media to not mislead people on where responsiblity rests. Did "Newsnight" really not know this was an EU matter when this thread was started, or were you just toying with the "silly women"?

  • 78.
  • At 12:04 PM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • David WIlkes wrote:

Name me one item that a man has no option but to purchase every month for 30 to 40 years of his life!

As one of the commenter pointed out that 'its only taxing on women if they use condoms too'

Women do purchase condoms just as regularly as men. But the choice is not the same, Women have to buy these products - Men don't have to have sex!!

Its ludicrously unfair, and if it were a product for a man, it would be free!

  • 79.
  • At 01:26 AM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • steve wrote:

Oh come on, laides : The amount of money spent on research into men`s health by the NHS as compared to women`s is tiny.
I think men and women should be reminded of something here : if one group of people are not paying for something they want or - granted - need , it`s only because another group are !
I need somewhere to live. I don`t see anyone coming forth to solve my problem. I work full time and earn a pittance,and haven`t had a holiday for 5 years. Why ? Probably because I`m paying the Gov`t too much in tax so that it can subsidise anything from a carrot to a kid !

  • 80.
  • At 02:17 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Mike wrote:

So, about £400 or £500 in tax at todays prices in a lifetime. However well packaged - if more complex - the internal bits of the female form are, they suffer from and are prone to a high failure rate in mid to later life. That and the fact the galls live longer, eventually means the galls reap more tax back than the male. But I do not mind. ps - what about adding HRT costs into the equation? Oh! and thanks for all the tax galls pay for face and body repair wonder products advertised by the 14 year olds for the 40 year olds.

  • 81.
  • At 07:11 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • missmiba wrote:

MENSTRUATION. female sanitary dressings. menstruation is not a medical emergency. but there is a gender discrimination to consider here. females are trapped by their biology.
it is fair to discriminate by biological functions? ie., if you r a male with an uncontrollable MONTHLY discharge would you be prepared to pay tax on dressings to cope with that? no, you would ask ur gp to prescribe something on the NHS!!!

  • 82.
  • At 07:06 PM on 06 Dec 2007,
  • E. Gordon wrote:

I'm not sure where I stand on this issue, but I would like to point out that there are in fact alternatives to tampons and sanitary pads.

The Mooncup is a resuable cup made of silicone rubber which collects menstrual blood inside the vagina. It costs around £18. I have used one for the past two years and it is fantastic. It leaked the first time I wore it because I had inserted it incorrectly, but since then I have found to to be far better than a tampon/pad.

They are also

- more comfortable (if you've ever taken a tampon out when it was too dry, you'll know what I mean - you never get that with the Mooncup),
- more convenient (don't have to carry tampons around with you; don't have to change so often; can insert it even if you're not sure whether you'll get your period),
- more environmentally friendly (just think how much crap you throw away every time you have your period... and you won't have to use that horrid bin any more!)
- more hygienic (smelled a used tampon lately? the mooncup is odourless when you change it, which I can only assume means there's a lot less gunk growing on it)
- healthier (no known case of TSS; no fibres to embed themselves in your vaginal wall; doesn't inhibit your body's natural cleaning mechanisms; no string hanging out to spread bacteria between orifices).

  • 83.
  • At 10:15 AM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Katie wrote:

I can't believe that not only are we still having this debate, but that there are men and women (I am surprised about the women - but one of them is a pensioner so it appears to be a question of "it doesn't affect me any more, so I'm alright, Jack") out there who still think that this is not an important subject. We women obviously need to be more graphic in our descriptions. So here it is. I excrete copious amounts of smelly red liquid EVERY MONTH. I have done so since I was 13. I am now 37. So this has already happened for 24 YEARS. It is likely to continue for another 10 to 15 YEARS. It is frequently accompanied by PAIN and NAUSEA. It lasts for at least 4 days. I do not wish for this to happen. I do not ask for it to happen. I do not want it to happen. I HAVE NO CHOICE! Let me repeat that. I HAVE NO CHOICE. Until I discovered the wonderful MOONCUP (non-disposable, far more convenient, non itchy) I was FORCED to spend around £10 a month on sanitary products as my bloodflow was so high. So that is £120 a year. So far it has cost me, my husband and my parents in the early years) approximately £2,700.00 (less 2 pregnancies) and if I hadn't discovered the mooncup (from leading high street chemist, cost £18 with a projected 10 year use) I would be condemned to spend another £1,000 to £2,000 on sanitary products until I am hit by the menopause. So potentially the average woman (and her parents) could spend between £4,000 and £5,000 over her lifetime on products to mop up a liquid that she doesn't even WANT to excrete but has no choice over! That is bad enough, but it is AN INSULT to have to pay tax on it as well.

  • 84.
  • At 08:42 AM on 05 Mar 2008,
  • Jessica wrote:

Menstrual cups!! yes, yes, yes.
What wonderful devices. If you can get over the ridiculous notion that a women should not be intimately familiar with her own body, this is the device for you. This whole tax on menstrual care products is irrelevant if you can grow up and do what's good for your body and the environment. The mooncup isn't the only cup out there.

Canada: Diva Cup
US: Keeper
UK: Mooncup and FemmeCup
Finland: Lunette
Czech Republic: Lady Cup

They last ten years!

  • 85.
  • At 12:23 AM on 06 Mar 2008,
  • Jessica wrote:

Menstrual cups!! yes, yes, yes.
What wonderful devices. If you can get over the ridiculous notion that a women should not be intimately familiar with her own body, this is the device for you. This whole tax on menstrual care products is irrelevant if you can grow up and do what's good for your body and the environment. The mooncup isn't the only cup out there.

Canada: Diva Cup
US: Keeper
UK: Mooncup and FemmeCup
Finland: Lunette
Czech Republic: Lady Cup

They last ten years!

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