Radiographers in the UK are proposing that the government removes VAT from bras.

Are VAT-free bras a possibility in SA? Images by Pexels/Castorly Stock and freepik

Bras and back pain: Should South Africa axe the tax?

Health experts in the UK are proposing that bras should not be taxed. What is South Africa’s stance on bra tax?

Radiographers in the UK are proposing that the government removes VAT from bras.

Are VAT-free bras a possibility in SA? Images by Pexels/Castorly Stock and freepik

Radiographers in the UK are advocating for bras to be exempt from VAT arguing that ill-fitting, low-quality bras could lead to health problems for women such as chronic back pain. Should South Africa consider removing bra tax?

Experts speak up

Delegates at the Society of Radiographers in the UK said that taxing bras disproportionately affects women. They added that it could be considered discriminatory as bras are essential for women’s health. Diagnostic radiographers perform X-rays, MRI and CT scans, which can help identify musculoskeletal problems caused by poorly fitted bras. Women who have undergone breast cancer surgery are exempt from VAT when buying certain bras in the UK, according to The Daily Mail.

Professor Joanna Wakefield-Scurr, a leading expert in breast biomechanics and health at the University of Portsmouth, highlighted the high cost of bras and supports the proposal to make bras tax free. “It is vital that women wear appropriate breast support on a daily basis to protect the health of their breasts,” she said.

The risks of bad bras

A quality, well-fitting bra can provide proper support, improve posture, and reduce back pain.

The consequences of wearing an ill-fitted bra extend beyond mere discomfort. It could cause skin irritation, restricted breathing, and chronic back, shoulder, and neck pain. An unsuitable bra can adversely affect your posture and even compress the lymphatic system, leading to potential health concerns.

Bras are considered a necessity for most women and removing bra tax in South Africa could make them more affordable. The affordability of bras is a big concern, particularly for low-income earners. The average price of a good quality bra in South Africa is around R500.

Katlego Motubatse published an academic paper last month titled ‘Bra sizing and fit among students at the Tshwane University of Technology’. She conducted research and presented her findings in a case study. The study pointed out the critical role of well-fitting bras in physical and psychological well-being.

Are VAT-free bras a possibility in SA?

If the South African government had to consider making bras tax free, the following could be problematic:

  • Creating a separate tax category for bras could be administratively burdensome for retailers and the South African Revenue Service (SARS).
  • It could be difficult to define which garments qualify as bras for tax exemption purposes. This could potentially lead to abuse of the system.
  • Exempting bras from VAT could lead to a loss of tax revenue for the government.
  • It is unclear if bras would be considered essential under the current SA tax regulations.

One possibility in addressing the issue is that the government could explore targeted subsidies (e.g. vouchers) for bras aimed at low-income women.

Raising awareness about the importance of proper bra fitting and encouraging the sale of good quality bras is another way to communicate the importance of the issue to the general public.

What is your opinion on the matter?

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