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Social Justice

Budget win for tampon tax campaigners but period poverty still a big issue

Scrapping the 5% tax on ‘luxury’ period products is a victory against a sexist tax, but more ambitious plans are needed that could see all women able to access free items

Today a major victory was scored for campaigners against the Tampon Tax as the Chancellor announced in his budget that VAT will be scrapped on period products.

From January 2021 women will no longer have to pay five per cent VAT on all period products, which have until this change been classified as a ‘luxury’ item rather than an essential. It is a huge step forward for campaigners like Laura Coryton, whose Stop Taxing Periods campaign has amassed over 320,000 signatures in the last six years.

She said the move by the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, would help tackle the taboo and sexism around periods – something vociferously highlighted in The Big Issue’s Period Issue special edition, published last month in association with anti period-poverty social enterprise Hey Girls.

Coryton said: “The end of this tax symbolises the end of a symptom of sexism and the period taboo, which has created period poverty and stopped girls from going to school. I’m so happy that all 320,000 people who signed my petition, as well as the many generations who have campaigned against this tax, have finally been listened to.”

Rose Caldwell, CEO of Plan UK – an equality campaigning organisation whose research into period poverty has shown that one in 10 girls in the UK have been unable to afford pads or tampons – said it struck a blow against stigma: “Today’s scrapping of the tampon tax is a landmark moment in the fight against period poverty, and it comes not a moment too soon.”

As our groundbreaking Big Issue Period Issue in February highlighted, some women and girls have been forced to resort to using old newspaper, socks or rags in place of often expensive period products, and many girls have had to miss out on school or college because of it.

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While the scrapping of VAT has been roundly welcomed, Monica Lennon MSP had spearheaded the fight to introduce free products for all in Scotland – making it the first nation in the world to do so – with her Period Products Bill currently working through Holyrood.

Schools and universities have offered pads and tampons free in schools, colleges and universities since 2018, and under the new Bill they will be available more widely in public places like community centres, pharmacies and youth clubs. The Bill, which passed its first vote in February and reaches a second phase during which amendments can be attached, could become enshrined in law by the end of 2020.

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