More than 50 MPs, retailers, and charities have written to the government urging them to remove the 20% VAT on period pants. Period pants are reusable underwear designed as an alternative to tampons and sanitary towels. While other period products such as pads, tampons, and menstrual cups are exempt from VAT, period pants are currently classified as garments and are subject to the 20% tax.
The letter, signed by 35 MPs and peers, as well as the chief executives of Marks & Spencer and Ocado, the publisher of Hello! magazine, and several charities and non-profit organizations, including Breast Cancer Now, the Marine Conservation Society, and Forum for the Future, calls on Financial Secretary to the Treasury Victoria Atkins to reclassify period pants as period products in the Chancellor’s autumn statement later this year.
Marks & Spencer has also launched the Say Pants to the Tax campaign in collaboration with period underwear brand Wuka. They have promised to pass on 100% of any cost savings to shoppers if the campaign is successful. Currently, a five-pack bundle of period pants at M&S costs £35, but without VAT, it would be £28. Similarly, a pack of three, currently priced at £20, would drop to £16.
M&S, which sells over 6,000 packs of period pants each week, and Wuka have estimated that their customers have paid over £3 million in VAT on period pants. A survey conducted last month found that 23% of respondents cited cost as a reason for not using period pants, with 83% in favor of dropping VAT from the products.
Period pants can be washed and worn again for months, providing cost savings for consumers and contributing to reducing plastic waste. Wuka estimates that one pair of period pants can save 200 single-use plastic disposables from going to landfill.
Victoria McKenzie-Gould, corporate affairs director at M&S, stated that if period pants were classified as period products, the government could make this alternative to disposable products more cost-effective for consumers. She also highlighted that nearly 25% of women cite cost as a barrier to using period pants.
In May, the Treasury announced that they would analyze whether the removal of the “tampon tax” has helped lower prices. In response to a written question from Labour MP Ruth Cadbury, the government stated that a tax reduction can contribute to price reductions and they are investigating whether retailers are passing on the zero rating to women as intended.