Life 29th March 2023 by Grace Mollaghan
Ireland Has Abolished The Tampon Tax, But Is It Enough?
At the start of this year, the 'tampon tax' was finally abolished in Ireland
Breaking down the Pink Tax and period poverty.
In 2023 you’d think that there would finally be complete equality across the genders. Compared to 100 years ago, women can vote, own land, have bank accounts and financial independence. There are gender discrimination laws for protection in the workplace, equality in attending third-level education and more women entering the positions of power across Ireland than ever before. However, equality is not that simple.
The ‘tampon tax’ is now abolished in Ireland, making menstrual products including tampons, pads, and menstrual cups taxable at zero rate of VAT.
But we do still have some way to go – here and around the world. Here’s everything you need to know.
What Is Tampon Tax?
Before 2023, some sanitary products in Ireland were still subject to the standard rate (i.e. the highest rate) of VAT tax – 23%, classifying menstrual cups as ‘luxury items’, while pads and tampons were exempt. This is significant as Ireland is now the only country in the European Union that DOES NOT subject any sanitary products to taxes.
Activists, organisations and companies, such as Mooncup continue to lobby the EU to allow and enforce an EU-wide tax exemption for menstruation products, whilst non-profits such as UK-based Gurls Talk, continue to advocate for increased awareness around period poverty.
To anyone who has experienced periods, we know sanitary products are not a luxury – they are a necessity. This has lead a wide number of schools, colleges and institutions offering free sanitary products in their female bathroom facilities because as everyone knows, having your period is not a choice.
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The price of sanitary products has lead to the term ‘period poverty’, describing the growing amount of young women who cannot afford basic sanitary products. UK studies have even found a growing number of young girls missing school because they do not have access to sanitary products and therefore miss out on their education on a regular basis.
Following its departure from the EU, the UK abolished their tax on sanitary products in January 2021. However, in the USA almost half of US states will charge tax of varying degrees on its sanitary products. Activists like Jennifer Weiss-Wolf from the group Period Equity, continues to lobby the US government in regards to the Tampon Tax. The organisation launched the campaign ‘Tax Free. Period’ to help raise awareness and pressurise the government into eliminating tax from these essential sanitary items.
But changing the tax bracket of sanitary products is only the first step in measures that need to be taken to abolish the Pink Tax.
Have you ever gone to pick up a pack of razors when doing your shopping, only to realise that the women’s razors were more expensive that the mens? Have you ever wondered why? Blame the Pink Tax.
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What Is the Pink Tax?
The Pink Tax is the price difference between similar to identical products that are marketed differently to men and women. These primarily consist of personal hygiene products such as razors, body wash and deodorant, to name a few. Change the razor packing to pink – add the Pink Tax. Have a pink body wash bottle instead of blue – add the Pink Tax. This is even recognised to extend to some children’s toys, with traditionally ‘girls toys’ (i.e. pink rather than blue) fetching higher prices in comparison to boys todays.
Governments around the world are beginning to acknowledge this difference including France, where it was addressed in parliaments along with the USA, where they introduced the ‘Pink Tax Repeal Act’ in 2016, disallowing price discrimination on the basis of gendered marketing.
Some companies see marketing their products for women specifically, as a means of charging their female customers higher prices and therefore making more profit from these products. Who said the world was finally equal for women? With Ireland abolishing tax on sanitary products, it’s a step in the right direction, however there is much more to come before equality becomes equity.
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