Calculating the cost of tampon tax

One of the biggest debates of our times is the controversial tampon tax. Government parties have made promises, and debated, for years around abolishing the tax – a tax that makes sanitary products more expensive, affecting the poorer members of our society.


Since 1973 sanitary products, including tampons and towels, have been taxed in five different ways – the current tax sits at 5% in the UK. Now, a handy calculator has been created by the BBC to reveal how much spending we actually do. The calculator details an estimate on what we have already spent and what we could spend in a lifetime, including a breakdown on VAT.

Results are based on the assumptions that you have 13 periods a year, use 22 tampons or towels per cycle, start menopause at age 51 and tampons and towels cost 13p per unit. It is a rough estimation but also reveals a shocking value already spent – newsflash, it’s enough for a summer holiday.


Having a tampon tax of 5% may seem ridiculous at present, but think about the ladies back in 1991 when the tax sat at 17.5%. The Labour government introduced the low tax rate in 2001 and it is the lowest possible rate available from the EU’s VAT rules. It could always be worse, after all.

Despite the low tax rate, calls for zero-rate in all sanitary products has reached fever pitch. In October 2015, after a petition from activist Laura Coryton created a petition to abolish tampon tax received 320,000 signatures; the government confirmed they would seek to change EU law to allow the tax rate for sanitary products to be lowered.


In recent months the tampon tax has been used to fund women’s charities – including a controversial donation to an anti-abortion charity. As the government drags its heels on the tampon tax, supermarket giant Tesco cut their prices of nearly 100 sanitary products to cover the 5% VAT cost.

The movement is gaining headway, and it is predicted by 2018 the European Commission will bring in zero-rate sanitary products and the UK government has legislated to allow this to happen as soon as the rule changes.

Time will tell if the changes will be effective and put into place. For now let’s have a little bit of ‘fun’ and discover how much of our hard earned cash has been unnecessarily taken from us for the luxury of sanitary products.

Family Life

Family Life is Scotland's premier lifestyle magazine, packed with recipes, reviews, real life stories and more. Pick up the lates issue FREE in a supermarket near you.

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