Late last year, Germany announced it will stop taxing menstrual products as luxuries, marking them instead as necessities. Starting January 1, 2020, the sales taxes or value added tax (VAT) on these products was reduced from 17% to 9%. The change has been welcomed and celebrated not just in Germany but across the world by advocates for menstrual equity and the elimination of sales taxes that mark menstrual products as luxury items.
Jule Schulte, a German journalist who started the petition to change the VAT, was asked why she thought it took so long for this change to be made in the country. She said: “The fathers of the tampon tax never had a period.”
Campaigners and activists have argued that having a period is not a choice, and therefore menstrual products should not be considered luxury items with high taxes imposed on them.
In the United States, sales taxes vary by state. In March 2019, only ten states considered menstrual products as necessities and exempted them from sales tax. In October, that number went up to 17. Still, that is only 17 out of 50 American states exempting menstrual products such as tampons – hence the term “tampon tax” – from being considered luxuries.
The European Union allows for a reduction of the VAT on menstrual products to a minimum of 5%. This graphic shows the European countries where the tampon tax is highest and lowest.
Some countries have completed removed any sales taxes on menstrual products, such as Kenya, which blazed the trail by removing the VAT back in 2004. Australia, Canada, and India – a country where four out of five women lack access to the products they need – also have removed sales taxes on menstrual products.
In other countries, however, sales tax on menstrual products is as high as 27%, such as the case in Hungary. This graphic hows which countries have the highest sales tax for menstrual products.
For people who don’t menstruate, this may not seem like a big deal. Still, for those who do, it is huge. Particularly for menstruators who are living in poverty or experiencing homelessness, the tampon tax contributes to a phenomenon called period poverty.
As long as period poverty – a truly global issue – persists, activists around the globe will continue to fight for the end of the sexist tampon tax.