Ahead of the Spring Budget and International Women’s Day, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and the Government have received an open letter calling for the removal of the tampon tax from sustainable and reusable period pants. The open letter has received nearly 30 signatures from environmental, health, and women’s organisations such as Modibodi, the UK’s best-selling period underwear brand, Wen (The Women’s Environmental Network) and The Fawcett Society, campaigners for gender equality and women’s rights.
Whilst the Government announced that ‘sanitary products are essential so it’s right that we do not charge VAT’ and claimed to remove the tax from ‘all women’s sanitary products’ from 1 January this year, the legislation excluded period pants, which it categorises as underwear. These pants are consequently taxed at 20%, the same luxury tax applied to champagne and private jets. The letter and campaign entitled ‘ThisTaxisPants’ is asking for Rishi Sunak to remove the 20% VAT in his upcoming Budget announcement.
The letter, which is born from an ongoing grassroots campaign, ‘ThisTaxisPants’ and led by Modibodi, innovators of period pants and the best-selling period underwear brand in the UK, in partnership with Bloody Good Period, Wen (The Women’s Environmental Network) and the Fawcett Society, has gained support from organisations ranging from environmental charities to women’s health organisations.
The letter calls on the Government to remove the tax so that reusable period pants are subject to the same zero rate of VAT as other menstrual products including conventional disposables such as pads and tampons, which can be made of up to 90% plastic. It is estimated that the UK spends around £88m a year clearing blocked sewers from menstrual products (combined with fats, oils, grease and food waste). It’s also estimated that 1.5-2 billion menstrual items are flushed down Britain’s toilets each year. Given that the Government committed to tackling plastic pollution in its 2019 manifesto, it seems hypocritical to retain a tax exclusively on more environmentally friendly menstrual products.
Period pants are growing rapidly in popularity as a form of menstrual protection as menstruating people switch to more sustainable ways of managing their periods. The products typically have a lifespan of up to at least two years and are made from environmentally friendly materials such as bamboo or wool, reducing the microplastic particles threatening our planet.
The high levels of comfort and absorbency provided by period underwear is also a lifeline for those with disabilities, sensory issues, painful conditions such as endometriosis, or those who struggle to make regular bathroom visits to empty a keeper or change a pad. They have even been a relief for the likes of our key and frontline workers, such as nurses or drivers doing long shifts to support the country with limited breaks to adequately manage their personal menstrual needs.
Kristy Chong, CEO and founder of Modibodi, said: “As the Government stated in January, sanitary wear is not a luxury but essential, so we’re frustrated that the government has created a limit to what is considered a necessity when it comes to period pants.
“We’re calling on Rishi Sunak to recognise how vital period pants are in overcoming major issues like period dignity, quality of life and disabilities and sport related needs, whilst also reducing waste and tackling climate change. It’s important that the UK population has a choice to use reusable period pants without being penalised with a tax that is actually for luxury items.”