1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

'Tampon tax' to be reduced in Germany

October 5, 2019

Plans are in the works to reduce the tax rate on tampons and pads in 2020. But critics say it's tax policy that needs an overhaul.

Image: Colourbox/Birgit Reitz-Hofmann

The German government plans to reduce the sales tax on tampons and pads from 19% to 7% starting in 2020.

German Finance Minister and Social Democrat Olaf Scholz confirmed the plan on Friday, telling the press, "many women campaigned for this and now we're making it happen."

The tax reduction will be introduced as part of annual tax amendments for 2020. The German parliament is currently discussing the details. A spokesperson for Germany's conservative parties, the CDU and the CSU, also spoke in favor of the move in September.

Scholz recommends the reduction go into effect as of January 1, 2020.

International movement

The move is part of a growing wave of international resistance to the so-called "tampon tax," a higher tax rate on products that are a necessity for people who menstruate. 

An online campaign circulating under the name "Periods are not a luxury" has garnered over 180,000 signatures.

Read more: German feminists call for end to 'luxury tax' for tampons

Under German tax law, the lower rate of 7% is intended for products necessary for everyday life, while the higher rate of 19% applies to luxury goods although, in practice, it is not always clear why a certain tax rate is applied.

In other countries, period products are taxed at a lower rate — or have even been abolished altogether — a move the European Parliament has encouraged its member states to do.

Inconsistent policy

While most politicians are praising the change, some have criticized inconsistencies in the current consumer tax policy, saying it is not clear why some products receive a reduced rate.

As an example, lawmaker Lothar Binding of Germany's Social Democrats told the German DPA news agency that "Advent wreaths made with fresh branches get the reduced tax rate; dry branches don't. Mules get the reduced rate, but donkeys don't."

Binding instead proposes getting rid of "irrational or socio-ecologically harmful reductions," like the one for food on cruise ships.

President of the German Court of Auditors Kay Scheller agrees. She told the Handelsblatt business daily that the reason for the growing number of tax-exempt products needs to be investigated before new exemptions are added.

Every day, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. Sign up for the newsletter here.

Kristie Pladson
Kristie Pladson Business reporter, editor and moderator with a focus on technology and German economy.@bizzyjourno