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The government has refused to drop the VAT on period pants – here's what to do

You may remember that a few months ago, we reported that period pant company Wuka was petitioning the government to drop the tax on sustainable menstrual products.

Wuka argued that women should be encouraged to use more sustainable means of managing periods, rather than being penalised for reducing waste.

While VAT is being dropped for tampons and pads from next year, eco products like period pants still have a 20% levy on them, which makes them economically unviable for many people.

So, Wuka urged the UK government to revise its pledge and make resuable period pants 0% VAT.

Unfortunately, HMRC has refused the request, citing that ‘difficulties in policing the scope of the relief create the potential for litigation, erosion of the tax base and a reduction in revenue’. However, it went onto say that period pants ‘may qualify for the zero rate when designed for children under the age of 14 yearsold providing they meet certain maximum sizing limits’.

‘This tax law codifies a body ideal that is exclusionary to any child over a slim waist size of Extra Small, sending out a message to any girl that doesn’t fit this definition that their body shape is not accepted as a child’s body and is excluded,’ explains Wuka’s CEO Ruby.

‘For parents of children above XS and under 14; this is excluding them from affordable menstrual products because of their child’s hip size.’

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. What’s the significance of being 14? In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, someone is a minor if they’re under the age of 18 and a good number of girls don’t even start menstruating until they’re over 14 years old.

And in no part of HMRC’s response was there an acknowledgment of the waste created by tampons and periods.

Over the course of someone’s menstrual life, they can get through up to 15,000 pads and tampons – the vast number of which will end up in landfill as plastic waste. The applicators alone create a tonne of plastic waste, as activist Ella Daish highlighted this week when she created a 6ft tall Giant Tampax Applicator out of 1,200 Tampax applicators collected from beaches and waterways across the UK.

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