After David Cameron got the entire EU Council to agree to remove the Tampon Tax on women’s sanitary items, it is now going to happen; both sides of Parliament will vote to remove Tampon Tax and we will no longer have to pay it.
And we know what you’re thinking, because we’re thinking it too. When do we no longer have to pay luxury tax on these vital items? A spokesperson for the Treasury told The Debrief: ‘The Finance Bill will be read and has a clause that includes an end to VAT on women’s sanitary taxes. It is only when the Bill becomes and Act by reaching Royal Assent that this will be enacted.’
In normal speak, that means the Finance Bill, which has a whole slew of recommendations for how the Budget will affect people, will have to be debated a few times in Parliament and then voted on. Luckily, all sides of the house (Labour, Conservative, SNP) have agreed they will be encouraging their MPs to vote for the amendment to scrap the Tampon Tax. But though they all want it to happen, they still have to go through the same processes. Once the Bill is voted on and is passed, the Queen give it her rubber stamp of approval. That’s called Royal Assent and is more of a tradition than an obligation; she does it regardless of her own personal views (bet she got all her tampons for free, back in the day).
This means that we should be looking for the Tampon Tax to be removed at some point within this Parliament, which lasts until August. So by August, tampons and sanitary towels will no longer be taxed as ‘luxury items’. We’ve got in touch with Procter and Gamble, the people who own Tampax and Always, to tell us how their recommended retail prices (RRPs) will change when the Tampon Tax is removed from their products.
The removal of the Tampon Tax is a successful campaign in that it has made it so that women aren’t unfairly taxed on necessities, but it also scores a major political win for David Cameron. In the run-up to the EU Referendum, he wants to be able to prove to Euro-sceptic MPs that the UK has the power to negotiate within Europe. Up until Cameron got the Tampon Tax scrapped, some Euro-sceptics were recommending that women vote to Leave the EU in the referendum in order to remove the Tampon Tax.
It’s a bit strange that women’s sanitary products have become a political football to do with Europe instead of women, but stranger things have happened.
Like the Government’s promise at the Autumn Statement in November 2015, to pay the equivalent amount of money brought in through the Tampon Tax into a fund to provide for a variety of women’s services. So women’s periods would be, effectively, helping pay for things like women’s cancer charities and women’s domestic abuse charities. At the time, Polly Neate, CEO of Women’s Aid, the largest of the four charities receiving money from the Tampon Tax fund, told The Debrief: ‘Whilst we welcome this money being used to help women, especially at a time where the government are campaigning for sanitary tax to be zero rated, we need to be clear that domestic abuse is not just a women's problem for taxation on women's products to solve - it is an issue for everyone in society and men and women must address it together.’
A more recent statement she's given on the scrapping of the Tampon Tax - and the 2016 Budget announcement in general, reads: 'We welcome the Government’s efforts to support women’s services, but it’s crucial that other cuts and welfare reforms do not undermine this progress. We can assume that further cuts and welfare reforms, such as capping housing benefit, will impact upon many women’s opportunities to escape and overcome domestic abuse.'
The Treasury informed us that so far, women’s charities have received £17 million from the Tampon Tax fund, but that when the tax is removed, this fund will go to. We asked the spokesperson how these women’s services will then be funded, or if there would continue to be a ring fenced budget for these services, and were told: ‘There must be loads of money coming from other places, like the Home Office’.
We have contacted all the charities who had received funding from the Tampon Tax for comment on the scrapping of the Tampon Tax and will update in due course.
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.