Government's decision to charge 20% tax on PPE 'unbelievable', says Labour

Ben Chapman
·2-min read
A woman puts on a face mask in Rome on 6 October, 2020.  (AP)
A woman puts on a face mask in Rome on 6 October, 2020. (AP)

Labour has criticised the government's decision to charge 20 per cent VAT on personal protective equipment (PPE), calling the move "unbelievable".

The Treasury temporarily cut VAT on sales of PPE to zero in May to reduce the cost to businesses, care homes and individuals of essential items such as such as face masks and aprons.

In August the VAT cut was due to expire but ministers chose to extend it to 31 October. The reduction was estimated to cost £255m in lower tax revenues over six months.

The government has now confirmed it will not extend the VAT cut, meaning consumers will have to pay more for face masks which are mandatory in places such as shops, museums, taxis and on public transport.

According to Labour's calculations, a family of four would need to spend an estimated £94 extra on PPE over the next six months.

Labour's shadow financial secretary to the Treasury, James Murray, called the decision "the last thing" families need.

He said: "It's unbelievable that the Government wants to introduce a mask tax in the middle of a pandemic.

"With Covid cases on the rise across the country, the Government should be doing all it can to help people follow its own guidance to wear a mask, not ramping up the cost of buying one.

"Families across the country are already struggling financially as a result of the crisis. The last thing they need is to be penalised for doing the right thing."

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: "DHSC have committed in the Winter Plan to provide free PPE for Covid-19 need to adult social care - the beneficiaries of this tax incentive - until March 2021 through their stockpile, ensuring a stable supply of PPE."