Bras should be exempt from VAT because they are essential for women’s health, radiographers urge the Treasury

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  • Poorly-fitted bras could be causing health problems, say radiographers

Bras should be exempt from VAT as they are essential for women’s health, radiographers claim.

Delegates at the Society of Radiographers annual conference will today call on the Treasury to axe the tax, claiming it disproportionately affects women and could be considered discriminatory under the Equality Act.

Diagnostic radiographers carry out X-rays, MRI and CT scans, which can be used to identify the musculoskeletal problems caused by poorly-fitted bras.

Proposing the motion during the three-day conference in Leeds, delegates will say: ‘The imposition of VAT on bras disproportionately affects women.

‘Taxing bras could be considered discriminatory as per the Equality Act 2010.

Radiographers are calling for bras to be exempt from VAT as they are essential for women’s health

Wearing the correct bra could reduce breast pain and musculoskeletal issues caused by large breasts and the NHS advises women women to wear a properly fitted bra

Wearing the correct bra could reduce breast pain and musculoskeletal issues caused by large breasts and the NHS advises women women to wear a properly fitted bra 

‘While there may not be any health conditions related to wearing a bra, there could be some musculoskeletal ones, particularly if you wear a larger cup size.

‘Those who are wearing a bra size D or above often get backaches, aching shoulders and neck pain, because of the weight of their breasts.

‘Wearing a good-quality, well-fitted bra could alleviate some of these issues, and reduce time off sick for musculoskeletal issues.’ 

The NHS website says women who suffer from breast pain should ‘wear a properly fitted bra during the day and a soft bra to sleep in’.

And the Chartered Society for Physiotherapy advises women: ‘Wearing the correct size bra will mean you will look great, be well supported and ward off unnecessary discomfort.

‘It is important to check your bra size annually and make changes if necessary. 

‘Many department stores offer a professional bra fitting service. Make use of these services to help find the right bra for you.

‘Taking active steps to make sure you are wearing the right bra for your size and shape, and when you exercise, will help you to look great and maintain good postural health.’ 

Delegates at the SoR conference will liken bras to menstrual products as a necessity, which should therefore not be subject to VAT.

In January, VAT on period pants was dropped following a two-year campaign by brands, retailers, women’s groups and environmentalists dating back to 2021, when the so-called ‘tampon tax’ was dropped from other period products such as pads, tampons and menstrual cups.

A 20 per cent tax on period pants, which are designed to be worn as an alternative to using tampons and sanitary towels, had remained because they were classified as garments.

Women who have had breast cancer surgery – whether a mastectomy, partial mastectomy or lumpectomy – are exempt from VAT when buying certain bras.

Professor Joanna Wakefield-Scurr, a leading expert in breast biomechanics and health at the University of Portsmouth, highlighted some sports bras now cost over £100 and said the proposal is a great idea.

She added: ‘It is vital that women wear appropriate breast support on a daily basis to protect the health of their breasts, additionally it is even more important in sporting situations where the G forces acting on the breasts can be greater than that experienced by an F1 driver.

‘I think the high cost with the addition of VAT may prevent women from purchasing appropriate bras and it may also make women more reluctant to replace their bras regularly.’ VAT is the UK’s third largest tax and is forecast to raise £176 billion in 2024/25.

An HM Treasury spokesman said any request for a new VAT relief should be viewed in the context of over £50 billion of requests for relief from VAT the Government has received since the EU referendum.

They added: ‘Bras worn by women recovering from breast-cancer surgery are already exempt but VAT does apply to most goods and services, generating funding for the country’s public services.’

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