I have received a number of emails from constituents asking for my views on VAT charged on women’s sanitary products.
My response is below.
Thank you very much for your letter regarding VAT charged on women’s sanitary products. I entirely agree that the sale of sanitary products should be exempt under VAT legislation.
The UK has three rates of VAT: the basic rate (currently 20%), the zero rate; and the reduced rate of 5%, used in a limited number of cases. Tampons and other sanitary products are currently classified using the 5% reduced rate.
Previously, sanitary products had been taxed at the basic rate (then 17.5%). Following a successful campaign led by the Labour MP Dawn Primarolo, the Labour government reclassified them to 5% in 2000.
Under EU law, certain products and services, such as the provision of medical care, are exempt from VAT. Decisions about VAT coverage and rates taken by Member States are governed by these rules. This means new exemptions cannot be introduced by Member States unilaterally.
Labour MEPs have written to the European Commission asking if it plans to amend the VAT directive to make women’s sanitary products exempt. Labour’s spokesperson for gender equality in Europe, Mary Honeyball MEP, will also be raising the issue in the Committee on women’s rights and gender equality and directly with Vĕra Jourová, the European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality.
The consultation referred to in your letter was conducted by the European Commission and was open from the 21st of April and closed on the 21st of July. It offered an opportunity for citizens and relevant organisations to contribute their views on the EU’s work on gender equality post-2015.
The European Parliament recently adopted a report on the EU Strategy for equality between women and men post-2015. This report sets out the Parliament’s position on the forthcoming EU gender equality strategy. Although no specific mention of VAT charged on women’s sanitary products was made, the report stressed the importance of monitoring the gender effects of taxation on women and families more generally.
I hope my response has been useful. Please get in touch if you have any further questions or concerns.
Afzal Khan MEP