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HMRC internal manual

VAT Women’s Sanitary Products

Women’s sanitary products: Products and rates


Supplies of women’s sanitary products were standard-rated until 1 January 2001, when they became liable to a reduced rate of VAT of 5%.


Since the introduction of VAT there was considerable campaigning to introduce a relief for women’s sanitary products. The Principal VAT Directive (Directive 2006/112) allows member- states to apply a reduced rate of VAT on a variety of health-related products.

EC Law

Articles 98 and 99 of the Principal VAT Directive (Directive 2006/112) permit member-states to apply a reduced rate of VAT of not less than 5% to supplies of goods and services specified in Annex III to the Directive.

Category (3) of Annex III covers a variety of health-related products:

Pharmaceutical products of a kind normally used for health care, prevention of illnesses and as treatment for medical and veterinary purposes, including products used for contraception and sanitary protection.

UK Law

The provision that reduced-rates the supply of women’s sanitary products is the VAT Act 1994, Schedule 7A - Charge at a Reduced Rate, Group 4 - Women’s Sanitary Products, Item No. 1:

Item No. 1. Supplies of women’s sanitary products.

The notes to the Group define what women’s sanitary products mean, and what can therefore be reduced-rated under item 1:

1(1) In this Group “women’s sanitary products” means women’s sanitary products of any of the following descriptions-

(a) subject to paragraph (2), products that are designed, and marketed, as being solely for use for absorbing, or otherwise collecting, lochia or menstrual flow;

(b) panty liners, other than panty liners that are designed as being primarily for use as incontinence products;

(c) sanitary belts.

1(2): Sub-paragraph (1)(a) does not include protective briefs or any other form of clothing. 

What products are reduced-rated?

Details of the type of products that are reduced-rated are given in Notice 701/18 Women’s sanitary protection products.


How is the VAT calculated?

Guidance of how to calculate the VAT due on reduced rate supplies of women’s sanitary products, and on how to deal with mixed supplies of standard and reduced-rated goods, is given in Notice 701/18 Women’s sanitary protection products.