The reasons why tampons are taxed in the UK


Tampons are in the news again.

It's all to do with the fact that every time you buy a pack you're taxed - and a lot of people don't think that's fair.

More than 250,000 people have signed a petition calling for an end to a 5% tax on sanitary products, and even the prime minister told Newsbeat he "wishes he could get rid of this".

So why doesn't he? Well we've been wading through reams of EU legislation so you don't have to.

Why is it here in the first place?

Space hopper

For this, we have to go back a few years. To a decade when kids got round on Space Hoppers and a pack of Polos cost you 4p. The 1970s.

It was then that the UK government signed up to something called the Common Market, which we now know as the European Union.

It was set up to make movement and trade between countries easier.

During its formation tax rates for a whole host of different products were thrashed out and it was decided tampons would incur a 17.5% tax.

In the year 2000 that was reduced to 5%.

Can't we just get rid of it?

Rubbish bins

In short - no.

You can't just change the tax rates in the EU, even if that's what every single person in the UK wanted (which it isn't).

The make-up of the EU Commission means that all 28 countries involved must agree on any changes.

In other areas of the EU there's something called quality majority voting, which means it only takes a few core member states to agree on an idea to push it through.

But this isn't true for taxation.

And in fact the UK government doesn't want it to be either. They would prefer the voting process to stay as it is.

So nothing's going to change then?

David Cameron

I wouldn't be too hasty.

There is a review planned on EU taxation policy for next year, where governments can bring up things they'd like to change.

So theoretically, David Cameron and his ministers could say they want the tax on tampons scrapped.

That will then have to be put to the other 27 members states to see if they agree.

If they don't the UK can use its veto to force everyone back to the negotiation table.

But the government hasn't committed to doing this and even if it did, there's no guarantee it would work.

But the Irish don't pay do they?


True. But that's because they already had a 0% tax rate on sanitary products when they joined the EU.

They were the only country to have that in place and were allowed to keep it that way.

And one more thing...

Man shaving his face

Despite what you may have read, razor blades are taxed too.

In fact they're taxed at 20%. 15% more than tampons.

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