Avalara > Blog > Sales and Use Tax > Tampons Aren’t Essential. Crocodile Meat Is. Wacky Tax Wednesday - Avalara

Tampons Aren’t Essential. Crocodile Meat Is. Wacky Tax Wednesday

  • Aug 20, 2014 | Gail Cole

Wacky tax stories aren’t unique to the United States. Recently, a row has erupted in the United Kingdom over the taxability of tampons and a few other essentials.

According to the VAT overview on gov.uk, “VAT is a tax you pay on most goods and services. You pay a 20% VAT most of the time—but less on essential items.”

Feminine hygiene products are subject to the reduced rate of 5%, implying that the government considers them essential items.

Some goods and services are subject to a “zero rate,” which is not the same as being exempt from VAT. Most food and children’s clothes fall into the zero rate category.

Apparently HM Revenue and Customs justifies the 5% rate on feminine hygiene products “by labelling these sexual health products as ‘non-essential’ items.” Seems a reasonable stance, if one that is open to debate. But it has come to light that a number of rather curious items are subject to that zero rate, or are exempt altogether. According to The Independent, exempt or 0% VAT items include:

  • Bingo (exempt)
  • Edible cake decorations
  • Exotic meat (crocodile, horse, kangaroo and ostrich)
  • Houseboat moorings (exempt)

This suggests that crocodile meat and edible cake decorations are somehow more essential than tampons or sanitary napkins. Now that’s wacky.

Taxing tampons in the United States

Essential or not, some states in this country subject feminine hygiene products to sales tax and some states do not.

States that tax tampons, sanitary napkins and similar products include:

States that exempt feminine hygiene products include:

Feminine hygiene products are also exempt from sales tax in Manitoba, Canada, even though Canada and the United Kingdom share a sovereign. Maybe one day they'll tax tampons the same. There is currently a petition circulating in the UK to "Stop taxing periods. Period."

Know of any wacky tax stories? Tell them to us in the comments below. We'd love to hear them!

photo credit: DFChurch via photopin cc

Sales tax rates, rules, and regulations change frequently. Although we hope you'll find this information helpful, this blog is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal or tax advice.
Avalara Author
Gail Cole
Avalara Author Gail Cole
Gail Cole is a Senior Writer at Avalara. She’s on a mission to uncover unusual tax facts and make complex laws and legislation more digestible for accounting and business professionals.