McPeriod: The Argument On The Tampon Tax

The Italian government has rejected the proposed bill to reduce the tampon tax from the current 22 percent

‘Tampon tax’ is a term used to identify that value-added tax on hygiene products, as tampons, which do not fall into the category of those products that are exempted from said tax, like groceries or even medicines. This argument often includes also other products, including sanitary napkins.

On average, individuals with female reproductive systems require these products 3-5 days every month for roughly 40 years, starting from their teenage years.

I should add the surreal nature of the argument as well as the redundant but necessary statement that a period, for instance, is quite mandatory unless for other exceptional reasons. However, the fact that a tax is being mentioned requires me to clearly state the following: a period cannot be stopped. Just about how you cannot stop growth or climate deniers (quite sadly for this last one).

Here is a brief, short note on pronoun use in this article: I will avoid female-oriented pronouns in order to include people who do not feel represented by female pronouns, yet require these products.

Tampon Tax in the World

Kenya was the first county to abolish sales tax for menstrual products in 2014. In January 2019, Australia repealed the 10 percent tax on tampons and pads after a 18-year campaign. An online petition pushed Canada to remove the tax in mid-2015. Gender-equality reasons moved Colombia to strike 5 percent off from pads and tampons.

In the United States (US) almost all states tax “tangible individual property”, with exception to those that fall under non-luxury necessities, as groceries or prescription. As a matter of fact, in November 2018 ten states specifically exempted essential hygiene products: Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. The US represents a particular case, since each of its states can decide for different laws, like the latest in Alabama on abortion, which was not shared by several other US states.


The European Union’s value added tax law as of 2015 does not allow zero rates. The United Kingdom (UK) used this point as part of their reasons for wanting to withdraw from the EU. One in ten women in England cannot afford menstrual products.

In 2017, Scotland began a pilot program to add free menstrual products in schools and food banks following a “period poverty”emergency, where young students have been reported skipping school because of their period or using unsanitary measures as T-shirts and newspapers. Scotland is the first country to have banned the period crisis.

Ireland has a zero tax value even under European Union jurisdiction their exemption being grandfathered.


Italy alongside Spain has the highest tampon tax. The 22 percent tax is considered equal to that linked to alcohol and vacation packages. This year the Italian Government has decided to leave the 22 percent tax, although both sides of our Government have members, generally female, who have argued against the tax or asked for a reduction. The latest reduction request was rejected by a vote of 353 to 189. The irony to this? The tax on truffle has been reduced to 5 percent because the product is considered a perishable good.

The Partito Democratico (PD – Democratic Party) member Enza Bruno Bossio, who presented the bill, argued that, “This tax reduction will indeed reduce the product’s cost, as well as the health risk related to using a cheaper product that could lead to unhealthy consequences.”


Accusations have been made that this tax is discriminatory, and it is. As if we could walk into a shop and just see what this month brings. Some people order menus at McDonald’s, so I wonder if the expectation is that we can also choose our period. A McPeriod today and a McStop in August — because, you know, you do not want your period to ruin your vacation.

Jokes aside, let’s take this a step further: what about those who can’t afford any pads at all?

Imagine being a person begging for money, and you have to pick between your next meal and a pad. I would pick my next meal, but when you have a large amount of blood leaving your body, risking serious infections and other discomforts, well.. the decision can get tough. A term is circulating to identify this phenomenon: period poverty.

And this decision should not be necessary. Expectations of our body have been made for centuries: at what age to conceive or the fact that children are a must in spite of everything, the products we use, and how we then choose to make of our bodies, because we must all be cute, skinny, and princesses looking for a prince.

(Does this mean that he will he pay for all our pads?)

Regardless of sex discrimination or social expectations, the whole issue sticks to a decision based on an unstoppable bodily function. Should we start taxing people for peeing? It sounds even more ridiculous when I venture to buy tampons and discover that the price rose again.

We are not yet evolved enough to order our period in the same way we order menus at a McDonald’s. We can conceive with a sperm donor, but not pick our McPeriod.