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article imageOp-Ed: Boris Johnson's facemask tax is simply wrong

By Tim Sandle     Oct 30, 2020 in Health
During the height of the coronavirus pandemic the U.K. government issued a tax exemption for facemasks and other personal protective equipment, as a means of making such coronavirus protection measures more widely available. The tax is coming back.
Putting tax back onto necessary health protection items that most members of the British population need to wear everyday, and frequently change, is a counterproductive step and it sends out the wrong message. It is the role of government to protect its citizens (or subjects, in the case of the U.K. population), and to nudge them in the right direction. This is doubly important during the time of the coronavirus pandemic.
Boris Johnson's decision to put the tax back on comes at a time when the experiencing a second wave of the pandemic, and cases of infection in England heading towards 100,000 per day (as per Public Health England's summary, reported in The Daily Telegraph).
With reports that many people continue to flout facemask rules, either because they do not see the necessity or cannot afford them, the government's decision is puzzling.
Wearing of facemasks to minimize coronavirus transmission is not a hypothetical concept. As Digital Journal's recent summary of the literature shows, the donning of face covering (ideally a surgical mask) is effective as one of the protective measures, along with handwashing (or hand sanitization) and physical distancing. See: "Essential Science: Why masks work and time to end the debate?"
When the pandemic began, Boris Johnson's government decided people would not have to pay value added tax (VAT) for facemasks and other types of personal protective equipment (or PPE). But now, they're set to bring back VAT on masks and similar equipment at the end of this week. It could cost families almost a hundred pounds or more over the coming months. The government's decision is opposed by the Labour Party.
The default VAT rate is the U.K. is a standard rate of 20 percent. Some goods and services are subject to VAT at a reduced rate of 5 percent. Other items are exempt from VAT or outside the system altogether. What falls within the tax system is decided by the government.
Many argue that VAT is a regressive tax because the poorest people spend a higher proportion of their disposable income on VAT than the richest people.
The campaign organization 38 Degrees has launched a petition, designed to trigger a debate in parliament. Hopefully such activities will lead to a reversal of this policy, which runs counter to the types of good health protection measures needed during the COVID-19 crisis.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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