Brexit and the tampon tax

The #Brexit campaign has got one argument that I can’t refute. They don’t talk about it much, but they should because it is, as far as I can see, pretty solid.

There has been for some time a campaign to zero rate VAT on feminine hygiene products in the UK, on the quite reasonable basis that tampons are not a luxury item, they are a necessity and paying VAT on them is a bit of an affront. As a member of the EU we can’t do that, there are very specific rules on minimum VAT rates (we have some historic exemptions that other countries don’t like us having) and VAT is deeply tied in to our membership (for example, the rebate we get that means we don’t pay £350 million per week is based on a complicated formula involving VAT and GDP https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UK_rebate). We can negotiate some stuff around VAT, and occasionally ignore bits (HMRC decided to officially not bother with enforcing the place of supply change on digital VAT for non-registered small businesses) but adding a new class of zero rated products just isn’t going to happen, the other members of the club won’t let us. VAT was dropped on tampons from 17.5% to 5% back in 2000, but getting it to zero is for the moment a step too far. George Osborne’s compromise, or acknowledgement of the issue, was to use the VAT raised to fund women’s charities and shelters to the tune of about £12 million a year — not very satisfactory to some. They are still lobbying the commission over the issue, but it would take a proposal backed by all 28 members to get it through, not impossible but very hard indeed.

If we were to Brexit, we would absolutely be able to zero rate tampons as soon as we left (about 2 years). So there you go #brexit advocates, if you want a fact based economic argument for something that we could, should and would do after brexit that we probably can’t do from within the EU then you had best start talking about menstruation because that is all you have got.

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of