'Tampon Tax' Abolished on Menstrual Products in the U.K.: 'A Long Road to Reach This Point'

"This commitment takes us another step closer to making [sanitary products] available and affordable for all women," Chancellor Rishi Sunak said

tampon tax
Menstrual products in the store. Photo: Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty

The United Kingdom is making history as it joins a growing list of countries that have abolished the "tampon tax" on menstrual products.

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announced by Sunak at a March 2020 budget following years of protests by campaigners who called the tax "sexist" and "outdated," CNN reported.

Tampons. Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty

Prior to that point, the U.K. had been bound by the EU VAT Directive, which mandated a minimum 5% tax on all sanitary products since January 2001, according to the press release.

Recently, the country had been working toward making period products affordable and available for all by providing them to all young people in English state schools and colleges, an initiative that was established in 2020, and having the National Health Service (NHS) offer period products to every hospital patient who needs them since 2019, the press release stated.

On Dec. 31, at the end of the Brexit transition period (which withdrew the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland from the European Union), the U.K. was no longer subject to applying the tax, thus giving the country the freedom to make its own decision.

"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.

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With the historic move, the U.K. now joins a growing list of countries that have taken action against taxes on menstrual products.

Last year, Germany voted to reduce the tax rate on menstrual products after deeming them to be a daily necessity, while Canada, India, Australia and Kenya all currently have zero tax on menstrual products, according to CNN.

Scotland went even further in November by becoming the first country to provide free, universal access to period products after lawmakers passed a landmark bill in Parliament.

The United States, however, has not passed any federal laws that require free menstrual products for those who need them, according to Today.

Some states have repealed the "tampon tax," including Nevada and Ohio, which both passed legislation to outlaw feminine product sales tax in recent years.

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