M&S and WUKA Lead Push for VAT Relief on Environmentally Friendly Period Pants

A view of a digital van in Westminster as part of the ‘Say Pants to the Tax’ campaign led by Marks & Spencer calling on the Chancellor to make period pants VAT free.

(IN BRIEF) Marks & Spencer (M&S) and WUKA have launched the “Say Pants to the Tax” campaign, seeking to exempt period pants from the current 20% Value Added Tax (VAT). The campaign, supported by various retailers, charities, politicians, and business leaders, calls on the UK Chancellor to eliminate VAT on these sustainable period products. It comes just ahead of the Autumn Statement, where significant fiscal decisions are expected. M&S estimates that the Treasury would only lose a minute fraction of its VAT receipts by exempting period pants. This campaign aims to promote fairness and accessibility in the realm of period products.

(PRESS RELEASE)  LONDON, 20-Nov-2023 — /EuropaWire/ — In a concerted effort to advocate for tax reform on period pants, Marks and Spencer (M&S) (LON: MKS), a major British multinational retailer, and sustainable period product brand WUKA have jointly introduced the “Say Pants to the Tax” campaign. This initiative is aimed at urging the UK Chancellor to exempt period pants from Value Added Tax (VAT), which currently stands at 20%.

As the UK’s Autumn Statement approaches, where significant fiscal decisions are expected, the campaign takes center stage. The primary objective is to eliminate the 20% VAT imposed on period pants, which are currently classified as clothing.

The “Say Pants to the Tax” campaign has gained substantial backing from various quarters, including retailers, charitable organizations, politicians, and business leaders. It has already made an impact with tens of thousands of supporters signing a petition and a public letter addressed to the Chancellor.

M&S estimates that the Treasury stands to collect approximately £2.8 million in VAT from period pants this year. To put this into perspective, the proposed VAT exemption would constitute a mere 0.0017% of the total Treasury VAT receipts. If we liken the Treasury to an average UK household with an income of £32,300 after tax, this exemption equates to just 55 pence per year—roughly equivalent to the cost of a pint of milk.

Victoria McKenzie-Gould, Corporate Affairs Director at M&S said: “We’re just 48 hours away from the Autumn Statement and we want the Chancellor to know that the tax on period pants is a bum deal for women everywhere, and we won’t throw in the towel on our campaign. We hope he received our message today, and we urge him to do the right thing on Wednesday and level the playing field on period products by making period pants VAT free. It’s a tiny percentage of the Government’s budget but a change that will make a big difference to women’s budgets across the country.”

Ruby Raut, CEO and Founder of WUKA said: “As the Autumn budget approaches, we urge Jeremy Hunt and the Treasury to take this opportunity to finally Axe the Tax on Period Pants. There is no difference between reusable period and incontinence underwear and yet one is subject to 20% tax and the other is not. Women’s health must be taken seriously with healthier, more sustainable alternatives like period pants more accessible to all. We hope that by taking this campaign to the streets, it will garner the attention of decision makers at government to right this wrong at this critical time.”

The campaign enjoys the support of the UK’s leading retailers, including Primark, George at Asda, Tesco, and Sainsbury’s, along with prominent charitable organizations such as Freedom4Girls, Bloody Good Period, and A Plastic Planet. Members of Parliament and peers from various political parties have also thrown their weight behind the campaign.

Alison Thewliss MP expressed her support, saying, “The Chancellor has already accepted the logic of removing VAT on sanitary products, so it’s only right that he extends that VAT cut to period pants. They are essential for many women and girls and have the bonus of being better for the environment than disposable products.  I’m proud to stand with the campaign to Say Pants to the Tax!”

Tracey Crouch CBE MP emphasized, “I strongly believe that nobody should be taxed no matter what period product they choose so when the Government made the decision abolish the tampon tax it was a proud moment for women, politicians, and campaigners across the country. What we’re asking of the Chancellor at this year’s Autumn Statement is to simply finish the job that was started by his government in 2021 – to remove the twenty percent tax on period pants and level the playing field for good.”

Selaine Saxby MP added, “I am glad that in 2021, the Government removed the ‘Tampon Tax’ from women’s sanitary products. However, a 20% VAT still applies to period pants which I believe is unacceptable which is why I have signed an open letter calling for the removal of VAT on period pants to level the playing field on period products.

I support M&S and WUKA’s campaign because it is just not right in my mind that women trying to reduce their impact on the environment pay tax on their more environmentally friendly period products.

I would like to say a huge thank you to M&S and WUKA for championing ‘Say Pants To The Tax’ and it was great to take this campaign to Downing Street. I do hope it will be included in the Autumn Statement because whatever period product someone chooses to use, it should be VAT free.”

In September, M&S pledged to pass the entirety of the cost savings onto customers. This means that until the government commits to making period pants VAT-free, a three-pack of period knickers, currently retailing at £20, will be available at the lower price of £16.

As the Autumn Statement looms, “Say Pants to the Tax” aims to influence positive change by shedding light on the issue of taxing period pants and promoting fairness and accessibility in the realm of period products.


Notes to editors: 

Find out more about the campaign here.

High-res imagery can be downloaded here.

For further information please contact the M&S Corporate PR team on corporate.press@marks-and-spencer.com or call 020 8718 1919.

More about M&S’ Period Pants:

  • In 2021, the Government removed the ‘Tampon Tax’ and products – such as tampons, pads, and menstrual cups – stopped incurring VAT. But under current VAT rules, period pants are classified as garments and therefore subject to a tax rate of 20%. M&S and WUKA customers alone have paid more than £3 million in VAT on period pants.
  • A reusable period product, period pants can be worn, washed, and worn again, month after month which means they can save consumers money and help reduce plastic waste too (WUKA estimates that one pair of period pants can save 200 single-use plastic disposables from going to landfill).
  • Made from responsibly sourced cotton and sustainable modal fibre
  • We only ever use responsibly sourced cotton for our clothes and the gusset will be made from responsibly sourced polyester by Spring 2024
  • If customers want to dispose of their period knickers, they can simply drop them into one of our Shwop boxes in store and we will dispose of them responsibly
  • Three years on from launching period pants, M&S now sells more than 6,000 packs each week. Period pants may look like regular knickers, but they are specifically designed to be leak-proof and replace the need for other period products, like pads and tampons. They are highly-absorbent, made using anti-odour technology and a multi-layer of fabric to ensure all-day comfort and freshness.

A survey of 268 women aged between 18 and 54 conducted by Toluna between 13th and 14th July found:

  • 76% have never used period pants before
  • 23% cite cost as a reason for not using period pants
  • 68% did not realise the ‘Tampon Tax’ did not apply to period pants
  • 83% are in favour of the Government removing the tax from period pants and reclassifying them as a garment

Media contacts:

Rachel Reynolds
PR Manager
Telephone: 020 8718 1919
Email: corporate.press@marks-and-spencer.com

SOURCE: Marks & Spencer



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