Let’s take a Eurotrip with the Tampon Tax

7 min readApr 13, 2020

This article provides an overview of the evolution of the tampon tax in European countries.

By Mariana de la Roche and Nikki van de Veerdonk

The tax on menstrual products, commonly known as the ‘tampon tax’ is a policy in which menstrual hygiene products are considered as a luxury item and consequently taxed at a higher rate than items deemed as a ‘necessary good’. Value-Added Taxes (VAT) on items classified as the latter are either reduced or in some cases exempt.

The tampon tax differentiates worldwide depending on national tax policies.

Image: Tax on menstrual products per country. Source: Menstrual Health Hub

VAT on menstrual hygiene products is imposed in most countries of the world, with the exception of a few including Australia, Canada, Colombia, India, Ireland, Kenya, Malaysia, South Africa and Rwanda who have no import tax on menstrual products.

In their article ‘The Unconstitutional Tampon Tax’, Bridget Crawford and Emily Waldman address the argument that the tampon tax is a form of impermissible gender discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause. For them it is a discrimination because menstrual hygiene products are closely tied to female reproductive anatomy, therefore, the tax on menstrual products is discriminatory as it imposes an economic burden on a specific portion of the population (women, girls and those who menstruate) based on a biological function. The reasons why menstrual products have been classified as ‘luxury goods’ for decades are multi-faceted and often assigned to tax legislators being predominantly male, the stigma that surrounds menstruation or the existence of gender-differentiated taxes as a form of discrimination.

Tireless work of progressive activism in the past decade bore fruit and resulted in policy changes that allow tax reductions on menstrual products down up to 0% VAT for European Union (EU) member states. However, the VAT rate on menstrual products in almost half of the 27 EU member states is still over 20% with no direct prospect of change in the near future.

Europe as a region is a particularly interesting case study where, even though each country has the autonomy to decide how much taxes their citizens will pay and how those taxes will be expended, the EU in some cases oversees the national tax laws with the purpose of…


Madami is a purpose-driven advisory & innovation agency specializing in femtech, sextech and gender lens investing