The UK got rid of the tampon tax, when will the US do that?


In November, Scotland became the first country in the world to provide its citizens with free sanitary products in its bid to rid the world of period poverty. There have been several organizations such as The Period Movement and activists working tirelessly to get rid of the stigma of menstrual health and diminish the monetary gap between women and girls and the monthly products that they need. Many celebrities such as Busy Phillips and Meghan Markle have lent their voices as advocates in the fight for menstrual equality.

The U.K. has now joined the ranks of several countries that have abolished the tampon tax. Officials who worked on the bill stated that the tax is outdated and sexist. The U.K. was bound by the E.U.’s 5% V.A.T. tax on sanitary items since 2001 and wanted it to be one of the first thing they tackled after the transition period that ended December 31, 2020. Along with abolishing the tampon tax, the NHS has been offering sanitary products to hospital patients that need them since 2020. Below is more on the story via People:

As of Jan. 1, the U.K. is no longer required to have a 5% rate of value-added tax (VAT) on women’s sanitary products, according to a press release from the U.K. government.

The announcement comes as part of a wider government initiative to end period poverty, which includes providing free sanitary products in schools, colleges and hospitals, the press release stated.

“I’m proud that we are today delivering on our promise to scrap the tampon tax. Sanitary products are essential so it’s right that we do not charge VAT,” Chancellor Rishi Sunak said in a statement.

“We have already rolled out free sanitary products in schools, colleges and hospitals and this commitment takes us another step closer to making them available and affordable for all women,” Sunak added.

The decision to abolish the tax was first announced by Sunak at a March 2020 budget following years of protests by campaigners who called the tax “sexist” and “outdated,” CNN reported.

“We warmly welcome the scrapping of VAT on all sanitary products… and congratulate the government on taking this positive step,” said Felicia Willow, the Chief Executive of Fawcett Society, the U.K.’s oldest women’s rights and gender equality charity.

“It’s been a long road to reach this point, but at last the sexist tax that saw sanitary products classed as non-essential, luxury items can be consigned to the history books,” Willow added.

[From People]

The tampon tax is absolutely ludicrous. In the U.S. women cannot even use their flexible spending accounts to buy menstrual products. Yet in all 50 states medical prescriptions are exempt from sales tax including dumb sh*t like Rogaine. Because men having hair is more important than women having access to necessary products that we need every month. The fact that bleeding once a month is not seen as a health issue is problematic. The fact that many women and girls go without these necessities simply because they cannot afford them is appalling. Low income women cannot even purchase sanitary items with their food stamps and this needs to change. I know I spend at least $200 a year on sanitary products and sometimes I tough it out and don’t buy Pamprin or Midol for my cramps because they are so damn expensive.

It angers me that something so natural still has this medieval stigma attached to it. I rarely find reason to cheer the U.K. these days and I believe that the U.K. fumbled the ball by leaving the E.U. but abolishing the tampon tax is probably one of the good things to come out of a bad situation. I understand that the U.S. still suffers from extreme systemic misogyny and hyper capitalism so I do not see a future where all 50 states abolishes the tampon tax let alone provide free sanitary products. It seems that women are forever punished by the patriarchy for just being female and I feel this is ingrained into the system just as racism is. I do hope activists and organizations will successfully lobby Congress to abolish the tampon tax across the country. I don’t know if this is possible and it may be up to each state alone but it would be indeed a step in the right direction toward gender health equality.

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23 Responses to “The UK got rid of the tampon tax, when will the US do that?”

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  1. Eleonora says:

    Good for them.
    I read a book about how most of the world is decorated to convenience men.
    Time for change.

    • Lolo86lf says:

      Well, us guys still have to pay sales tax on condoms and viagra but I don’t know if my comparison is a false equivalence.

      • Killfanora says:

        But do you use them every few hours, 24/7, for a whole week every single month. And over a 50 year “period” (pun intended) in total?

      • Chaine says:

        @Lolo86f PLEASE. (1) you can use an FSA or HSA to pay for condoms, plus many local and student health departments and Planned Parenthood give out free condoms. This s not true of period products. (2) the generic form of Viagra is covered by most health insurance, unlike period products. (3) inability to have sex due to lack of a condom or viagra is NOT the same as a debilitating condition that could prevent someone from going to work or school for 5-7 days a month for 30+ years for fear of bleeding all over everything.

      • Ali says:

        To add to @Chaine’s point, the tax on menstrual products is actually unconstitutional on the basis of sex. There is no equivalent product that is used exclusively by cisgender men. The examples given: there are actually some condoms on the market that are tax free, but this varies by state. For Viagra, the only state where this is taxed is Illinois. It is not taxed anywhere else because it is a drug. Also, unless you have a medical need, Viagra technically isn’t a necessity. Period products are, though, for those of us who menstruate.

      • Haapa says:

        Yeah, women don’t buy condoms ever. Give me a break. How many men pay for hormonal birth control?

  2. FC says:

    I feel like the only way the Men In Charge will understand this need is if we all walk around bleeding everywhere and on everything for a week.

  3. mynameispearl says:

    I’m wondering if the UK govt isn’t trying to make this look like a Brexit ‘won’t. The same vote was put through parliament in 2015 when we were still very much in the EU, and enough Tory dinosaurs voted it down at that point to mean it didn’t happen at that point. Hmmm.

    • Mei says:

      They absolutely are, you’re right. They’re jumping on anything half decent right now and saying ‘we couldn’t possibly have done this while in the EU, they’re so mean’. It’s pathetic, but I don’t expect anything less from our government and clueless Brexiteers at this point.

    • SarahCS says:

      This is what I came here to say. There’s very little you can make into good headline around Brexit (other than outright racism and xenophobia) so of course they pushed this through ASAP.

      It’s the right outcome but it’s a political decision, not one being done simply because it’s the right thing to do. Men don’t care about women’s bodies beyond controlling them.

  4. Veronica S. says:

    When we can convince states to ban the tax. Since most sales tax is done at a state level, that’s where the work has to be accomplished. I’m in one what makes feminine hygiene products exempt, but it is ridiculous that we don’t tax things like condoms (not that they should, mind) under the insistence that they are absolutely necessary to health safety and not a basic product for a life process women can’t avoid. It’s a huge issue for women living in poverty.

    This being said, a minor correction – you can absolutely tax OTC and prescription meds and some states do. Illinois and Georgia actually do tax the latter, albeit with a reduced or conditional percentage.

    • Sam the Pink says:

      The biggest barrier to abolishing the tampon tax is giving the states an alternate revenue stream. Even so-called “progressives” balk at removing the tax because when you remove a tax, you lose the revenue it generates – that was why Jerry Brown in California vetoed the removal a few years back. States become dependent on that revenue and they fight to keep it, even if the tax in unjust. And let’s face it, the tampon tax is an extremely consistent form of revenue, because baby girls keep being born and women keep having periods. So many are reluctant to admit that such a tax is unjust and should be abolished.

  5. Solace says:

    This is a great development. Thanks for covering it, Oya. And, hugs. PMS can be exasperating. We need all the support we can get.

  6. Ali says:

    I love that this is being highlighted, but want to point out that HSA and FSA dollars can be used towards menstrual products. It was included in the CARES Act: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-outlines-changes-to-health-care-spending-available-under-cares-act. I’ve been working on menstrual equity issues in my state for several years and this was an exciting development. Also, I want to lift up Period Equity – they’ve been leading the charge nationally to repeal the tax on these products and have worked closely with champions like Rep. Grace Meng to advocate for menstrual equity.

  7. Lily P says:

    Question because I’m curious how we compare! How much are period products where you guys are? For reference here in England you can get a pack of 16 tampons for about £1.75 / $2.30

    • Veronica S. says:

      If you go for the off brands, it’s relatively the same pricing for us. Something like $4 (2.95 pounds)/36ct for regulars with price increases for the heavier flow options. Name brands like Tampax can get pricey, though, especially if you have heavy periods like I do. I can usually go through an entire box of tampons on one cycle if it’s a really mighty period, but I also use pads for overnight because I distrust leaving a tampon in that long while I’m sleeping.

      • Chris says:

        I’m in Canada and at my local grocery it’s 5.00 for 18 Regular Tampax and 3.28 for 18 refuse store brand.

  8. Katie says:

    such a wonderful step, esp. Scotland. and in case anyone didn’t know viagra is tax free, so if you wanted to feel a little more angry about this, you are welcome

  9. Sam the Pink says:

    This is a great development. I do hope they include reusable products in this, since that is really the direction we need to start moving in as a planet (and yes, I realize they do not always work, but for women who can use them, they are a great option). I do know that some FSAs allow you to buy reusable products here in the US – for example, mine covers menstrual cups and menstrual underwear (like Thinx). But that’s all they cover, and that should be expanded.

  10. Jamie says:

    Good for them and unrelated it was nice to see a hijabi on the main page

  11. Lex says:

    Give the cup a go, other menstruators! It’s amazing! Save thousands.