Useful resources on Period taxes

On this page you’ll find a wide selection of useful resources on period taxes to support campaigning, media work, and more. It includes definitions of key terms, videos, our Research Report on the effect of tax reduction on product prices, and much more.

Learn more about how to campaign on period taxes
Understand how tax removal affects product prices

Videos and webinars

Learn more about the topic of period taxes and campaign examples through these explanatory videos and webinar recordings. Click images to start the videos.

glossary of terms

GST

Goods and services tax (GST) is a consumption tax that functions in the same way as value-added tax (VAT).

INPUT TAX

This is the tax paid at each stage of the production and manufacturing process of a product.

LUXURY TAX

The term ‘luxury tax’ has been used by campaigners to highlight instances in which menstrual products are not taxed as basic necessities, and instead are taxed at a similar rate to products we consider luxurious, such as truffles, cut flowers or caviar.

MENSTRUAL HYGIENE MANAGEMENT (MHM)

In order for women and girls to manage their menstruation safely and with dignity they need a clean material to absorb or collect menstrual blood that can be changed in privacy as often as necessary for the duration of a menstrual period, soap and water to wash the body as required, and access to safe and convenient facilities to dispose of used menstrual hygiene materials. In addition, they must also understand basic facts linked to the menstrual cycle and how to manage it with dignity and without discomfort or fear. Some organisations refer to this as ‘menstrual health’ (MH) or ‘menstrual health and hygiene’ (MHH).

MENSTRUAL PRODUCTS

This is an umbrella term that refers to absorbents and products designed specifically for the absorption or containment of menstrual blood. These include but are not limited to tampons, disposable or reusable sanitary pads, menstrual underwear and menstrual cups.

PERIOD POVERTY

While there is no agreed definition of the term, period poverty is commonly used to refer a situation where women and girls are unable to access safe, hygienic menstrual products due to financial constraints.

PERIOD TAXES

The term ‘period taxes’ includes all types of taxes, duties and levies on all types of menstrual products. Some campaigns also use the term ‘tampon tax’.

SALES TAX

Sales tax is the tax applied at the point of sale. It is charged in addition to the retail price as a percentage of it.

TAX EXEMPT

When a product is made VAT exempt, no tax is paid by the consumer at the point of sale.

VAT

Value-added tax (VAT) is a consumption tax that is placed on a product whenever value is added at each stage of the supply chain, from production to the point of sale. In some countries it is called goods and services tax (GST).

WOMEN AND GIRLS

We use the term 'women and girls' to refer to all people who menstruate.

ZERO RATE

When products are zero rated, VAT or GST is still applied to them, but it is at a rate of 0%. This means that while manufacturers and/or retailers of the products will pay tax on the materials used to create them, they will be able to claim that input tax back

HOW TO ADDRESS COUNTER ARGUMENTS

When you campaign for change it is normal to experience some resistance. Here is a list of counter arguments that are commonly brought up against campaigns for tax removal or reduction and how to respond to them.

Why do you only refer to women and girls? Menstruation affects people of other genders, too.

Absolutely. We recognise that not all women menstruate, and not all people who menstruate are women. We use the term 'women and girls' to refer to all people who menstruate.

Poor people won’t be able to afford products, even if they become cheaper.

Very poor people may still not be able to afford menstrual products even if a tax reduction or removal is passed on to consumers. To ensure access for all, further measures may be required that can also be complementary to a tax change.

Campaign tip: If the campaign aims to address period poverty, consider looking at other interventions and policy measures to improve access and affordability, such as free menstrual products in schools or distribution schemes for low-income households and homeless people.

Lowering taxes will not lower product prices.

Yes, in many countries the removal or reduction of period taxes alone does not necessarily lead to lower product prices. But the fact that it requires additional action doesn’t mean that it is impossible. Ideally, the government and the public will hold producers and retailers accountable and pressure them to pass through tax reduction to consumers. In addition, lower product prices is just one positive effect of tax reduction, alongside triggering broader conversations about gender equality and tackling persisting stigma surrounding menstruation.

Campaign tip: As part of the campaign, get suppliers and retailers to publicly commit to passing the tax reduction through to consumers. If they do, this will help you increase pressure on political decision makers and enable you to hold suppliers and retailers to account. Consider campaigning for products to be zero rated instead of tax exempt if this is possible within your country’s tax system. Read more about this in the Research Report.

Why repeal taxes on menstrual products when other basic items such as condoms or shaving razors are taxed, too?

Taxes on menstrual products are unfair and gender-discriminatory because these products are basic necessities. Yes, there are other products that should be considered basic necessities and should be tax exempt too. Among them are items used by males. But that is another conversation which shouldn’t derail governments from taking action on period taxes now.

Campaign tip: Be open but insist that it is time to scrap period taxes, even if there are other products that require tax revisions. That is another conversation.

Period products are inexpensive and taxes are already low, so why scrap them?

When considering individual products, taxes account for a small fraction of the price. But counted over a year or over a woman's lifetime, it adds up to a significant sum of money, especially for poorer women and girls. In addition to the financial aspect, the tax is a manifestation of gender inequality and discrimination against women and girls.

Campaign tip: Draw attention to the fact that period taxes are unfair and gender discriminatory, no matter how high or low they are.

recommended reading

Advocating for Affordability. The Story of Menstrual Product Advocacy in Four Countries

Fox, Susann,  2020, “Advocating for Affordability. The Story of Menstrual Product Advocacy in Four Countries“, Global Health Vision

https://gatesopenresearch.org/documents/4-134

An Economic Assessment of Menstrual Hygiene Product Tax Cuts

Rossouw, Laura and  Ross, Hana, 2020, „An Economic Assessment of Menstrual Hygiene Product Tax Cuts“

https://gatesopenresearch.org/documents/4-137

Menstrual Equity - A Legislative Toolkit

ACLU National Prison Project, Period Equity. 2020. “Menstrual Equity - A Legislative Toolkit”

https://www.aclu.org/report/menstrual-equity

The Tampon Tax: Sales Tax, Menstrual Hygiene Products, and Necessity Exemptions

Bennett, Jennifer. 2017. “The Tampon Tax: Sales Tax, Menstrual Hygiene Products, and Necessity Exemptions.” Tax Law Review 1: 34

https://scholarship.law.missouri.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1007&context=betr

Human Rights and the Taxation of Menstrual Hygiene Products in an Unequal World

Crawford, Bridget J., and Carla Spivack. 2017, revised 2019. “Human Rights and the Taxation of Menstrual Hygiene Products in an Unequal World.” In Tax, Inequality, and Human Rights, by Bridget J. Crawford and Carla Spivack, 449–68. Oxford University Press

https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3005700

The History behind the Movement to End the Tampon Tax

Tax Free. Period. , nd. “The History behind the Movement to End the Tampon Tax”

https://www.taxfreeperiod.com/blog-entries/historytampontaxadvocacy

What Life Would Look Like Without the ‘Tampon Tax’

Recht, Hannah. n.d. “What Life Would Look Like Without the ‘Tampon Tax.’” Bloomberg.com

https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2018-tampon-cost/

Taxes and duties for sanitary products in Africa