End to VAT on period pants comes into force

By John Mercury January 1, 2024

Period pants will no longer be subject to VAT in shops after a campaign by retailers, women’s groups and environmentalists.

The product – seen as a greener alternative to single use sanitary towels and tampons, as they can be washed and re-used – have been growing in popularity in recent years.

But while the so-called “tampon tax” was dropped on other period items in 2021, the pants were classed as a garment, meaning they were subject to the VAT rate of 20%, and the cost was deemed as prohibitive for some.

Marks and Spencer, along with period pant maker Wuka, wrote an open letter to the government last year, calling for the tax to be abolished and promising to pass the cost saving straight on to customers.

The campaign got the backing from other retailers, including Tesco and John Lewis, as well as 35 MPs and peers, and a number of charities, while a public petition was signed by tens of thousands.

EDITORIAL USE ONLY A view of a digital van in Westminster as part of the 'Say Pants to the Tax' campaign led by Marks and Spencer calling on the Chancellor to make period pants VAT free. Picture date: Monday November 20, 2023.
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M&S upped its campaign in the run up to the autumn statement

In his autumn statement back in November, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirmed VAT would be removed from the items in the new year, with the change coming into effect on Monday.

This will lead to an average saving of £2, with a three pack of period knickers at M&S falling from £20 to £16.

The corporate affairs director of M&S, Victoria McKenzie-Gould, said: “Paying tax on period pants was a bum deal for women everywhere so we’re thrilled that the Treasury has done the right thing by axing the tax and levelling the playing field on period products for good.

“Nearly 25% of women cite cost as a barrier to using period pants so we know the new legislation that comes into effect from today will make a big difference to women’s budgets across the UK.”

Tampon tax campaigner and founder of Sex Ed Matters, Laura Coryton, also welcomed the move, saying: “Ending the tax on period underwear will make a huge difference, particularly given skyrocketing levels of period poverty across the UK.

“It will also help to tackle the stigma associated with periods, which stops at least 10% of girls going to school every month.”

But she called on all retailers to not only pass on these savings to customers, but those saved by the tax removal on all period products.

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Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Nigel Huddleston, said the change in the rules was “a victory for women across the UK and for the campaigners who’ve helped raise awareness of the growing importance of period pants”.

He added: “It’s only right that women and girls can find more affordable options for what has become an essential and environmentally-friendly product.”

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