'Kick-ass' St Albans business campaigns for period pants tax removal

people wearing WUKA period pants

WUKA creates eco-friendly period wear for people who menstruate - Credit: WUKA

St Albans MP Daisy Cooper has submitted an Early Day Motion (EDM) to parliament in a bid to include menstrual clothing in period products' tax exemption, with the support of a local period pants brand.

Ruby Raut, who co-founded St Albans-based WUKA (Wake Up Kick Ass) in 2017, has shown her support for Daisy's EDM by highlighting that the tax exemption on disposable products further promotes their use, rather than encouraging other eco-friendly alternatives.

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WUKA founder Ruby Raut

WUKA chief executive Ruby Raut - Credit: WUKA

Currently, period pants are subject to 20 per cent VAT (value added tax), whereas other sanitary products, such as tampons and pads, are exempt.

Commonly known as 'tampon tax', the five per cent tariff on sanitary products was lifted on January 1 across the UK after years of campaigning. In March 2020, chancellor Rishi Sunak said that by January 2021 "there will be no VAT whatsoever on women’s sanitary products," but failed to include menstrual clothing, making period pants a non-essential, luxury item.

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The EDM has already sought the support from 15 MPs across England and Scotland, and with Daisy Cooper at the helm, they are striving to get all Hertfordshire MPs on board as cross party support for a fairer tax.

The move, which Ruby brands as "irresponsible", "unfairly penalises" sustainable period options for those who menstruate, indirectly encouraging the purchasing of disposable products.

In response to the government's decision, WUKA set up a parliamentary petition to recognise period pants as a menstrual product so that they can be taxed fairly. The petition has almost 18,000 signatures, but needs 100,000 to be considered for debate in parliament.

WUKA period pants infographic that reads 'period pants are taxed as a luxury item unless your mp signs now'

WUKA are calling for people to get their local MPs on board in a bid to get reusable period pants VAT free, like tampons and sanitary pads. - Credit: Ciaran Spencer

In response to WUKA's petition, HM Treasury said: “Difficulties
in policing the scope of the relief create(s) the potential for litigation, erosion of the tax base and a reduction in revenue," meaning that there is no clear definition of what constitutes a period product.

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WUKA chief executive Ruby Raut said: "Period pants are designed to be worn during menstruation and WUKA has always been very clear on that message. The pants sit in the same aisle as tampons and pads in 214 UK Sainsbury’s stores which also advertise WUKA as a menstrual product and so should be taxed in the same way as disposable period products.

"Period pants are more environmentally friendly compared to tampons, pads and panty liners, which are single-use and then disposed; compared to period pants which can be used for up to two years. 

"Tampons and pads are no longer treated as a luxury.  It’s time to ensure that period pants are given equal treatment."

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In a plea to MPs, Ruby added: "Taxing this product fairly alongside disposable period products ensures women and people who have periods have all the available choices, at a fair price. Please do sign the EDM and help Daisy remove luxury tax from period pants; making a sustainable option more accessible."

To view the Early Day Motion in support of this campaign, visit edm.parliament.uk/early-day-motion/57934. To sign Ruby's petition, click here.