- By Hannah Miller
- political correspondent
The tax on menstrual pants will be scrapped in the Autumn Statement, the BBC has reported.
On Wednesday the chancellor is expected to announce that underwear, which is absorbent, washable and reusable, will be “zero-rated” and will no longer be subject to Value Added Tax (VAT) from January.
Other menstrual products, such as sanitary pads and tampons, are exempt from 2021.
A campaign by retailers, women’s groups and environmentalists follows.
Menstrual pants have gained popularity as customers look for sustainable alternatives to single-use products. However, campaigners say removing VAT on underwear would make it more affordable.
In 2021, the government removed the so-called “tampon tax” on menstrual products, including sanitary pads and menstrual cups. But period trousers were classified as “garments” and therefore not covered by the law change.
Currently VAT is paid at 20% on most products, with the exception of some items such as most food, books and children’s clothing.
Retailers including Marks & Spencer and brand Wuka were among around 50 signatories to a letter to the Treasury in August urging the government to scrap VAT on vintage trousers.
In the letter, they pledged to pass on any tax reductions directly to customers, “so they immediately feel the benefit of the cost savings.”
The letter added that menstrual pants “have the power to reduce plastic pollution and waste” and could save people money in the long term, but added that “one of the main barriers to switching to menstrual pants is cost.” .
Marks & Spencer has estimated that the cost of the VAT exemption would be 55 pence a year for a UK household on an average income – around the price of half a liter of milk.
Former sports minister Tracey Crouch said: “No one should have to pay tax no matter what vintage product they choose.”
SNP home affairs spokesperson Alison Thewliss said: “The chancellor has already accepted the logic of removing VAT on sanitary products, so it is only fair that he extends that VAT cut to menstrual pants. They are essential for many women and girls.”
Over the last 20 years, vintage underwear has gone mainstream and is now sold by major brands such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Primark and Next.
The pants contain a highly absorbent lining and can be used in place of pads or tampons. They can be washed and reused many times, just like normal pants.
The move is expected to be confirmed in Wednesday’s Autumn Statement, when the government sets out its tax and spending plans for next year.