How to Abolish Indirect Taxes on Menstrual Hygiene Products

23 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2020

See all articles by David Rüll

David Rüll

Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance

Date Written: September 8, 2020


The levying of indirect taxes on menstrual hygiene products is facing widespread criticism because of its inequality implications. Most obviously, charging value-added tax or goods and services tax (VAT/GST) raises gender equality concerns: only menstruating persons are in a need of these products and there is no equivalent product that those who do not menstruate are compelled to acquire. Furthermore, taxing menstrual hygiene products stresses pre-existing socio-economic inequalities: for many in very low-income countries, the additional tax burden might be decisive to the question of whether they are able to purchase these products. Limiting access to menstrual hygiene products has serious implications for people: it can exclude them from social life or disable them from going to work or to school.

In this contribution, I examine how the VAT/GST tax burden on menstrual hygiene products can be – and already is in several states – reduced. Thereby, I discuss different methodological options as well as the possible wording of a provision to grant preferential taxation to menstrual hygiene products. Additionally, I consider whether sustainable products should be promoted in the course of such a measure. Finally, I contemplate whether there are options to discourage companies along the supply chain from increasing their profit margin as a reaction to the decreased tax burden.

Keywords: Value-added tax, Inequality, Menstrual hygiene products, Low-income countries

JEL Classification: K34, H20, H71

Suggested Citation

Rüll, David, How to Abolish Indirect Taxes on Menstrual Hygiene Products (September 8, 2020). Copenhagen Business School, CBS LAW Research Paper No. 20-28, Available at SSRN:

David Rüll (Contact Author)

Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance ( email )

Marstallplatz 1
Munich, 80539

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