In a few days, disposable surgical masks will be cheaper. After weeks of pressure from different sectors, the Spanish government has announced that they will reduce the VAT on masks from 21% to 4%. They will also reduce the maximum retail price so that the tax reduction does not translate into a business benefit. These new measures were announced by María Jesús Montero, minister of Finance.
First, the inter-ministerial commission on drug prices will meet tomorrow to set a new maximum price for disposable surgical masks, which has been 96 cents since April. Then, the council of ministers will approve a decree to reduce VAT on masks. Montero said that the government didn't take this decision until now because they were waiting for the European Commission's endorsement, since they weren't sure that they could lower the VAT.
As she explained in Congress, where the opposition bench showed its disapproval, the European Commission responded to their query by assuring that "a procedure for non-compliance with the Community directive will not be filed". This is not the case in all European countries. For example, in Portugal VAT on masks has been reduced for months now, with no EU fine.
Montero defended that "the [Spanish] government is sensitive to the problems of the people" and that they waited for the Brussels's answer "to rule out the risk of having to pay a fine of millions for not complying with a regulation". "This government will never put the country at risk for not complying with regulations," he added.
This decision will have important effects for all families. The official recommendation is that a disposable surgical mask has a maximum life of four hours. If we consider that a person may use three masks per day, the average cost would be 90 euro per month and over one thousand per year.