Wednesday, 28 April 2010


For many years there's been a conversation amongst feminist women involved in students' associations about how there are still tariffs on what are euphemistically referred to as "women's sanitary products." My recollection of the parts of this conversation that I heard back in my day were along the lines of some vague understanding that there were tariffs on tampons and pads on the basis that they were luxury items, but no one seemed to know precisely what the tariffs were or any other info.

For a long time now I've been meaning to find out. And now, thanks to Idiot/Savant's mention of a list of tariffs on the internet, I kind of have.

It seems that tampons currently have no tariff on them at all. Pads, referred to as "sanitary towels" in the Customs documents, do have a 5% tariff on them. Quite why this is I couldn't discover, so if anyone else can tell me please do spill the beans.

However the 5% tariff is waived for countries of origin with whom we have free trade agreements that cover these products, except for China, whose tariff is being gradually reduced to zero over the next few years, presumably as a result of the Free Trade Agreement signed with them under the last Government.

In order to see if the countries with the waiver were also countries we were importing pads from I did some exhaustive research by spending max. 2 minutes at the supermarket yesterday checking out the packaging of all the pads I could see for sale in the relevant aisle at the Onehunga Countdown. Wriggly was with me, so it wasn't a stealth mission. None of the pads I looked at (at least one type from each brand on the shelf) were made in Aotearoa.

Countries pads were imported from:
  • Thailand - tariff free under the ASEAN-Australia-NZ FTA
  • Vietnam - tariff free under the ASEAN-Australia-NZ FTA
  • EU - no tariff exemption that I could see, therefore presume 5% tariff applies
  • Australia - tariff free under several different FTAs
  • China - tariff still in place - currently 2.6%, will go down to 1.3% from January 2011, then zero from January 2012
So there we have it. Yes there's a tariff on pads, the reason is still a mystery to me, and some of the places we are importing them from have exemptions.


homepaddock said...

If there are no pads made here what industry is the tariff protecting?

On a related topic: When I was working in Britain nearly 30 years ago women were campaigning against the unfairness of VAT on pads and tampons when pipe cleaners were exempt.

Anonymous said...

It depends on what the pad is made of. Where you are looking - 5601.10 is for pads etc made of cotton wadding. If they are made of cellulose (plant) fibre then you need to look at 4818.40 where the rate is Free from all countries.


Azlemed said...

I remember some of those conversations at WRO training etc, man that brings back memories, just out of curiousity is there a tariff on disposable nappies?

Anonymous said...

Disposable nappies come under the same tariff headings (the numbers quoted) as sanitary napkins, depending on composition. So only if they are made of cotton wadding would they attract duty. (which most aren't cotton these days???) Having said that, even if something has a duty rate, if the product cannot & is not produced in NZ, the importer can apply for a duty concession, which is advertised in the NZ Gazette & if no objections are lodged, then the item becomes duty free under concession - forever. (unless someone starts making it & objects). I haven't checked the concession list (it's around 350 pages of terribly small print)but I would presume that a concession would exist if it wasn't made here.


Julie said...

Wow Karen, thanks for sharing your knowledge!

In terms of the issue about being able to get a concession if product not made in NZ at all, at least one major brand of disposable nappies is (Treasures, which states so on their website here)

A lot of disposable nappies seem to be made from some kind of crystal gel stuff (inside) and I imagine they have a high level of plastic in them, eg the grippy tabs seem to be at least plastic coated.

Anonymous said...

There is a facebook group looking into the tax on tampons and pads, and also whether they could be subsidised through prescriptions, like condoms are.!/group.php?gid=146294410054


Jinerviet said...

Solution to paying heaps of money for pads and tampons? Either reusable pads, or menstrual cups! I've been using a Mooncup for 2 years now, so glad I found out that there's an alternative to pads and tampons.

Anonymous said...

There actually are some disposable nappies made out of cotton these days. They're environmentally friendly biodegradable ones. I've only ever seen them in wellington though.

Anonymous said...

I agree, get rid of all tariffs!