We Speak To The University Union That Just Officially Banned The ‘Period Tax’

Here's why the University of East Anglia won't make a penny from your period...


by Sophie Wilkinson |
Published on

Did you know that you can buy a jar of caviar and not be taxed on it, because it’s food? But if you buy a tampon, you’ll have to pay 5% VAT on it because, well, because it’s deemed ‘non-essential’. The tax on tampons, sanitary towels and what the HMRC like to call ‘keepers’ (but what we just call Mooncups) used to be 20%, and luckily, campaigners got it pushed down to 5% in 2001. But still, that means that women are effectively paying extra money for something that is pretty necessary. We’re all paying a period tax.

Well, not at the University of East Anglia, where the Students’ Union (UEASU) has just announced that they will no longer charge students VAT on these items.

READ MORE: Meet The Period Vloggers Leading A Menstrual Revolution

Holly Staynor, Welfare, Community and Diversity Officer of the UEASU told The Debrief: ‘I’m so excited that we’re doing cost price sanitary products on campus and that UEA students have decided to stand up and say no to this unfair burden placed on women. Our hope is that not only will this in a small way alleviate the financial burden placed on our students, it will also encourage women to avoid using less healthy and unsafe ways of managing their periods.’

This decision was announced via the UEASU's website: ‘We’re going profit free on Sanitary items’ on the SU’s website, it announced: ‘[We] decided that it’s unethical to ask people to give a contribution to the Government each time [they have a period] – and it’s unethical to make a profit from all these products too, even if the proceeds make it make into the union.’

READ MORE: Ask An Adult? Is It time We All Started Using Mooncups?

‘We’ve looked at the costs and decided to go profit-free on periods… From Monday 24th November, our range of tampons, towels and mooncups will be sold at the price we buy them in at, with prices starting at 49p…in some cases we’re halving the price of a period on campus.’

While they’re perhaps the only institution to ban making a profit from tampons, they’re not the first people to suggest removing the 5% tax from what is a pretty essential item for women. Earlier this year we spoke to Laura Coryton and Rosie Chronnell Scott, two students from Goldsmith’s College, University of London, who set up a petition calling for none other than George Osborne to axe the 5% tax. The petition has almost 50,000 signatures.

The HM Revenue and Customs gave The Debrief this statement: 'The application of VAT in the EU, including rates and flexibilities afforded to Member States such as the UK, is governed by EU law. The UK applies a 5 per cent reduced rate of VAT to the supply of sanitary products. This is the lowest rate possible under EU VAT law.'

In normal-speak, if we want to totally abolish the period tax, we've got to take it up with Europe. And according to Europe? Well, they seem to have this to say in response to a previous question about the period tax: 'exceptions to the general rules on VAT rates [must be] agreed by Member States by unanimity.'

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Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophwilkinson

Picture: Conor Lawless

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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