Relief for consumers as retailers adjust prices for VAT-free sanitary pads

02 April 2019 - 15:01 By Nonkululeko Njilo
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Sanitary pads became VAT-free this week.
Sanitary pads became VAT-free this week.
Image: Gallo Images/iStock

Major retailers have described the scrapping of value added tax (VAT) on sanitary pads as a relief for consumers, especially as petrol prices increase.

The scrapping of VAT on the product came into effect on Monday, having been announced by finance minister Tito Mboweni last year. Mboweni at the time also abolished VAT on white bread flour and cake flour.

The Shoprite Group said the removal of the 15% VAT charge on these items would "bring relief".

"System changes have already been implemented to add these additional zero-VAT rated items to the existing list of items, with updated pricing applied as of Monday April 1.

"We always welcome savings for our customers and the introduction of additional zero-VAT rated items will make these items more affordable," Shoprite told TimesLIVE.

Pick n Pay also said it had made price adjustments to allow for the zero-VAT products, adding that the change to the baking items would make a difference ahead of the Easter holidays.

"Our prices for these items were reduced [on Monday] to account for the zero-VAT exception. Easter is traditionally a strong baking time for South Africans, so the VAT exemption on bread and cake flour will be coming at a good time for customers," said Pick n Pay spokesperson Janine Caradonna.

The government has been under pressure to zero-rate sanitary towels after it increased VAT from 14% to 15% in April last year.

Several MPs‚ academics and civil society bodies have long been calling for an end to VAT on the item, with many warning that young girls from poor households were missing school classes when they were menstruating because they could not afford sanitary pads.

Research has shown that, on average‚ females spend at least R600 a year on sanitary towels.

Nokuzola Ndwandwe of #TeamFreeSanitaryPads described the move as a victory but said more still needed to be done. "The scrapping of VAT will benefit those who can afford to purchase, the middle class for example. What about children and women in the rural areas?" she said.

Ndwandwe said while progress had been made in the fight for VAT-free sanitary pads, there was still a need to educate society about menstrual health and sanitation, which could be facilitated by various departments.  

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