Tampon Tax. Are you outraged?
Politics has never been so exciting. Not only do we have unconstitutional Lords, but we also have erstwhile Payday loans campaigner Stella Creasy delivering heartfelt pleas to ministers comparing sanitary products to jaffa cakes. So what is her beef and is it going to get sorted?
Over 250,000 people signed a petition calling for the Government to stop treating women's sanitary products as 'a luxury' and to scrap the VAT on them. It sounds a reasonable request and yet the Government (this one nor its predecessors) has consistently failed to do anything about it. Why deliberately nark half the electorate? The answer, as ever, is to do with the EU.
The problem is that the UK zero rate of VAT is actually illegal under EU law. We aren't allowed to have it- member states may only have a main rate of 15-20% ish and a reduced rate of 3-5% ish. However, back in 1972 when we joined our Euro friends, a compromise was reached whereby the UK was allowed to keep the things which had been zero rated as zero rated, but no new items could be so designated. This is why ebooks (never even dreamt of in 1972) are standard rated at 20% yet books are zero rated. And tax cases have found ebooks to be sufficiently different that it would constitute a new item being classed as zero rated which we can't do. Jaffa cakes won an exciting VAT case (yes, really) by being designated as a cake instead of a biscuit, as cakes are zero rated but chocolate covered biscuits are standard rated.
Currently in the UK, sanitary ware is charged the reduced rate of VAT as that is as low as we can legally do so- to make them standard rated would theoretically require all member states to vote on a resolution on just this issue. However, there may be some hope on the horizon as the European Commission has responded to the current flare up by saying that a review of the VAT rules will take place in 2016. Perhaps they will allow us out of 1972 for a few minutes to reassess what is crucial for VAT charging purposes.