Cancer charity calls for zero VAT on sunscreen

Cancer charity calls for zero VAT on sunscreen

May 17, 2023

A skin cancer charity has called on the government to scrap the 20% VAT rate on suncream amid price rises during the cost of living crisis 

The removal of VAT on sunscreen products would significantly reduce the number of skin cancer cases nationally and could save lives, claimed the Melanoma Focus Charity.

The charity surveyed 2,000 adults across the UK and found that half thought sunscreen was too expensive, while 10% said they did not use it at all because of the cost. Two thirds (67%) said they would use sunscreen more if the product was cheaper.

The charity has called on the government to scrap VAT on sunscreen, which currently carries a 20% tax – adding around £1.50 to the cost of a bottle. The move would bring the UK closer to Australia, where sunscreen is subsidised.

Currently, there is no specific provision for sunscreen to qualify for VAT relief. Under the current VAT rules, sun protection products are subject to the standard rate of VAT. However, high factor sunscreen may qualify for a zero-rating if it is provided on prescription.

According to the survey, more than half (58%) of respondents did not know the signs of melanoma skin cancer, the most dangerous, as well as the most common type among young people in the UK.

There are around 2,300 melanoma skin cancer deaths in the UK every year, which is projected to rise. Cancer Research UK has forecast there could be around 26,000 new cases every year in the UK by 2038, up from 16,700.

Susanna Daniels, the chief executive of Melanoma Focus, said: ‘Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK and the deadliest form of skin cancer. Around 86% of melanomas are preventable and therefore, wearing a high SPF sunscreen is a hugely important safety measure for protecting against it.

‘We know that people are experiencing increasing pressures on their finances at the moment, but with skin cancer rates on the rise, the use of sunscreen should be a high priority.

‘The government could help make skin protection more accessible to all, regardless of income level, by removing VAT from high factor sunscreens. This would be a cost effective way to cut the overall incidence of skin cancer and could help save lives.’

Some of the symptoms of melanoma include a mole with an uneven shape or edges, a mole with a mix of colours, and an abnormally large mole.