A platform for young feminists from Europe

April’s theme: “Women and health” – the tampon tax

Did you know that in most countries in the EU, women are taxed for having their periods? As shocking at it may sound, the tampon tax is a reality. Even though sanitary protections are necessary to women’s health, in many countries they are still not recognized as such and taxed as regular consumption goods. Women and health is the topic of this month.

What is the tampon tax?

Different types of tampons and a menstrual cup

Different tampons and a menstrual cup by גביע האלופות [(Own work)] [CC BY 3.0] or [GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

VAT is a way for states to collect tax on consumptions goods. VAT is a fixed percentage of the sale price of the good that is added to it. This means that a portion of the price of the goods that you buy goes to the state through the VAT. Most countries have different rates of VAT: a generic VAT rate, and one or several reduced VAT rates, often applied to so-called “necessity items”. Some countries also have zero-tax rate for specific types of products.

In the EU, for example, countries have a VAT that ranges between 17 and 27%. But the majority of them tax sanitary protections at the highest rate possible. Because tampons and sanitary pads are, according to states, not necessary products.

Women are taxed for having their period

Anyone who has their period (which is about half of the world population) knows that it is not even possible to leave one’s house without a sanitary protection. Still, in Belgium, where a petition was launched by the Collective Belges et Culottées, a 21% tax is imposed on sanitary products, while necessary products (such as chocolate!) are only taxed at 6%.

So how is it possible that sanitary products are not considered a necessity, and therefore subject to higher tax rates? Well, as President Obama rightly put it, it is probably because “men were making the laws when those taxes were passed”. But for many politicians, it is still difficult to understand where the problem is. In France, the Secretary of State for the Budget declared that products “specific to men”, such as shaving creams, were also taxed at the higher VAT rate (20%) – visibly unaware that women also use shaving creams…

The abolition of the tampon tax: a feminist victory

If recently, some states have reduced the VAT rate applied sanitary products, it is not because Members of Parliament suddenly had an epiphany. It is thanks to women groups and feminist collectives who collected thousands of signatures online and ran brilliant campaigns protesting the unfairness of the tampon tax. They managed to convince their governments to do something about this injustice.

By doing so, groups in France, the UK, Spain have managed to show that bias against people with uteruses is embedded in many spaces of public life. But they also demonstrated that by campaigning, change can be obtained.

This month’s contributions:

1 Comment

  1. Ashley Vandekerckhove Ashley Vandekerckhove
    13th June 2016    


    The Collective Belges et Culottées/Belgisch en Regelvrij is working together now with Testaankoop (is an organisation that protects consumers) and so they renewed their petition. You can find it here: http://www.test-aankoop.be/familie-prive/belastingen/nieuws/teken-onze-petitie-voor-een-btw-tarief-van-6-op-producten-voor-intieme-hygiëne

    Kind regards,

    Ps: I am now the delegate from Ghent for this collective 🙂

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