Is scrapping the tampon tax enough?

Kelly Corcoran on the decision to repeal the 5% tampon tax

Kelly Corcoran
16th March 2020
Image: Marco Verch on Flickr
In the recently announced 2020 budget, the 5% tax implemented on women’s sanitary products was confirmed to be removed in 2021. Once categorised as a “non-essential, luxury item”, the removal of this tax marks a huge success, and a shift forwards in the drive for women’s equality. Items such as condoms are famously not taxed, while tampons still are. However, whether this is a complete success - and a sign that the government is committed to removing all prejudiced taxes on female products - remains ambiguous.

Over recent months, the issue of period poverty has become a key social issue in the UK. With figures showing that young girls, refugees, and women on low incomes across the country were struggling to afford basic sanitary products each month, the significance of the issue became obvious. This heightened the unjust and indefensible taxation on items such as tampons and sanitary towels. With the removal of the taxation upon them, figures such as 49% of girls sometimes missing whole days of school due to an inability to afford proper period hygiene products will likely see a fall.

Disparities between men and women's razor prices were reported on in 2016
Image: Public Domain Pictures

Despite the positivity of this, we cannot ignore the other ludicrous and incomprehensible taxation placed on other female items, which demonstrates the prejudiced attitudes towards women’s hygiene in the UK. For example, in 2016, price differences between male and female razors were brought to light, with Boots UK charging £2.29 for a women’s 8-pack of razors, and £1.49 for a men’s 10-pack. Meanwhile, in 2019, Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine argued that “products marketed at women are on average considerably more expensive that those marketed at men”, the difference usually deriving merely from the products' colour. Thus, from sanitary products to razors and deodorants, women are constantly faced with higher hygiene prices than men. 

The pink tax still exists, and we see it day-to-day

This ‘pink tax’ that we see day-to-day highlights that while the tampon tax marks a huge success for female equality, the unfair and unnecessary targeting of women’s products still exists. Further, it demonstrates that attitudes towards men's and women’s hygiene are not equal. Does this taxation infer that female shaving is less important or necessary than men’s? This would be an ironic position to infer, considering the constant targeting that women face with regards to bodily hair and grooming. 

Inequalities around women's hygiene must still be bought to attention

We can celebrate the success of the (albeit very slow) acknowledgement of the unjust and unfathomable taxation of sanitary products, but the inequalities that are still present surrounding women’s hygiene must still be brought to attention. The continued circulation of the gender pay gap throughout society makes the impacts of these sexist taxations even more prominent.

Meg Howe's article on why removing the tampon tax is a step in the right direction is available here:

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