In the “Budget Planning Document” (DPB, the document that prepares the budget law), approved on Wednesday by the Council of Ministers, a 22% to 10% cut in VAT was added “on absorbent products for feminine hygiene “. The decision is not final: the document will now be sent to the European Commission which will make an evaluation of the economic policies contained within it, then the specific measures will have to be included in the budget law, on which every year there is great discussion among the various parties (this year will probably be even greater, given that the government is supported by a majority that goes from left to right).
In Italy the ordinary VAT rate is 22 percent, but there are reductions for specific goods and services: 4 percent for some foods such as olives in brine, 5 percent for other foods such as truffles, 10 per cent for the supply of electricity and gas for domestic use, medicines, but also frogs and partridges to eat, collectible stamps and works of art. Currently, most sanitary napkins in Italy are in the highest range of VAT rates, the one at 22 percent, next to caviar.
The issue of the cost and taxation of sanitary napkins has been talked about for years, both in Europe and in various countries of the world: feminist movements have long been engaged in protests and various proposals that aim to abolish what is called “tampon tax “.
The principle is that obviously menstruation is not a choice, as is the fact of having to buy sanitary pads which are therefore a necessary product for millions of women: many therefore argue that it is unfair that sanitary pads or tampons are not considered first goods. necessities, and indeed are subjected to a rate higher than that of luxury foods, among other things (“The cycle is not a luxury”, is the slogan most often used).
Accepting the requests of the feminist movements, the attempt to reduce the “tampon tax” has been carried out in Italy by some politicians and parties, such as Laura Boldrini and Possibile.
In 2019, Boldrini had presented an amendment to the tax decree (a decree approved every year by the government before the budget law) which provided for partial satisfaction of this request: the reduction of VAT on sanitary towels from 22 to 10 percent. The amendment, however, had been rejected by the Finance Committee of the Chamber (chaired by the Northern League’s Claudio Borghi) because it was considered inadmissible. Subsequently, the amendment was readmitted, but a “downward” agreement was reached that led to the reduction of the VAT rate to 5 percent but only for menstrual cups and compostable pads: a sub-category of biodegradable, more expensive pads and much more difficult to find. The products most used and sold every day, on the other hand, were left with a VAT at 22 percent.
In 2019, to explain why the government had not wanted to lower the VAT on products for the management of menstruation, the chairman of the Budget Committee of the House Carla Ruocco said that doing so would have been an excessive cost for the state: according to the calculations of the accounting department. state, lowering the VAT to 10 percent would have made the state lose 212 million euros a year; lower it to 5 more than 300 million.
Over time, several countries have intervened on the “tampon tax”: in 2000 the United Kingdom had lowered the VAT on women’s healthcare products from 17.5 to 5 percent and last January the tax was completely eliminated. In November 2020, Scotland – which already guaranteed free sanitary pads in schools and universities – approved the world’s first legal provision providing free access to sanitary pads. In 2015, Canada had eliminated the tax on tampons, sanitary pads and menstrual cups altogether, and in the same year in France the taxes had been lowered from 20 to 5.5 percent. In 2019, thanks to a petition, VAT in Germany had also fallen from 19 to 7 percent, while in Spain it was raised to 4 percent.