The tampon tax has barely left the news cycle (ahem) over the last few years, with people standing up against the extra 5% VAT on sanitary products that has existed in some form since 1973. Funnily enough, most of us with periods don't consider them a "luxury" but an essential item.
Last year, after pressure grew to remove the tax, the government agreed to give all the money it raised to women's charities, rather than putting it back in its own coffers. This proved controversial, with many arguing that it painted domestic violence as a women's issue (some of the money goes to Women's Aid); some of it even went to an anti-abortion group.
At the level of the individual, that extra 5% is an ongoing pain that leaves people with periods worse off. You may not notice it when you buy your monthly tampons but over the years, the extra expense sure adds up. And now, depressingly, there's a way to work out exactly how much of your money has gone towards the tampon tax over your lifetime.
The BBC has created a calculator that tells you roughly how much you've spent so far, based on how old you are and when you started your period, and how much you could end up spending in the years to come.
As a 25-year-old woman who started her period at 13, for example, £23.98 of the £503.60 you've spent on sanitary products so far went towards VAT. In your lifetime you're looking at £70.10 going towards the tampon tax, from your total £1,472.07 spend on sanitary products.
If you're 30 and began menstruating at the same age, you'll have spent £701.91 on sanitary products and £37.82 on VAT so far and can expect to fork out a total of £1,476.68 on products,£74.71 of which is on the tampon tax, throughout your lifetime.
The calculator is based on various rough assumptions: that you have 13 periods a year with a 28-day cycle; that you use 22 tampons and/or towels per period; that you'll go through, or went through, menopause at the age of 51; and that tampons and towels cost 13p per unit.
While, of course, periods vary massively from person to person and even month to month, the tool is a useful – if bleak – reminder of what feminists are up against.
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