Tanning Tax to Take Effect in Summer 2010

Tanning salon businesses across the nation will feel the effects of the new health care insurance bill as early as July 1, 2010. Indoor tanning salon patrons will soon be charged a 10% tax to help fund the $940 billion health care overhaul.

President Barak Obama signed the new law into effect only yesterday, marking a pivotal, and surely controversial, moment in our present history. The controversy is mainly fueled by unclear, and seemingly miscalculated—or at least under-estimated—budget cuts and tax increases; not to mention measures to impose insurance coverage on those who choose not to carry any, the banning of insurance companies to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, the banning of insurance companies to drop coverage of an individual due to severe illness, and banning limits on lifetime or annual benefits.

Indoor tanning salons join a long list of tax increase recipients such as insurers, drug-makers, medical-device manufacturers and Americans earning more than $200,000 a year. In fact, the 10% tax on tanning salons was actually a replacement to the original 5% tax on cosmetic surgery, in hopes to generate $2.7 billion over 10 years towards the health care reform, which adds insult to injury for most salon owners.

The original 5% cosmetic surgery tax—cutely-nicknamed the “Botax” because it was to include Botox surgery—was expected to generate $5.8 million; more than double the amount expected from … well, I guess we can call it the “Tan-tax”. The Botax was averted after heavy lobbying from the medical and dermatology industries.

Many salon owners, as you can imagine, find this to be plain unfair, arguing that the Tan-tax is basically singling out the small, middle-class, mostly women-owned business. Salon owners push that the cosmetic surgery industry would not have been so negatively impacted by the Botax because most of their patrons tend to be of a higher, financially-inclined status; while the average tanning salon customer comes from that same middle-class range that has already been beaten and abused by the current status of the economy.

“10% doesn’t seem like much when you’re paying $20 a session,” says Emily, a frequent visitor to an L.A. area tanning salon, “but it starts to add up if you go in once a month.” Emily vents her frustration at the overall picture by saying, “Everything else is already adding up—gas, groceries, utilities—and now, I guess, I’ll have to cut back on my tanning as well—just a tiny bit—just to save a little more money.”

“Next thing you know they’re going to tax a trip to the beach,” Kristina Admire, National TanWall Design Manager, and frequent indoor tanner, added sarcastically. “Seriously though,” she continued after a bit of a chuckle, “This is not helping small businesses at all! I don’t think this tax is going to stop anyone from tanning all together, but what is scary to me is the thought of who else, in middle-America, is the government willing to target? Where will it stop?”

The American Academy of Dermatology, which strongly opposed the Botax, applauded the inclusion of the tanning tax as a replacement because of the significant health risks associated with indoor tanning.

According to the Academy, indoor tanning before the age of 35 is linked to a 75% increase in the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, which has also become more common in young females. Meanwhile, nearly 30 million Americans hit the tanning beds each year and about 2.3 million of these people are teenagers.

An indoor tanning tax will therefore “serve as a signal from the federal government to young people that indoor tanning is dangerous and should be avoided,” said Dr. William James, president of the academy.

In addition, because the United States currently spends about $1.8 billion on treating skin cancers each year and $300 million on melanoma alone, the tax will significantly reduce the future costs of treating skin cancers, Dr. James said.


“Tanning brings so many benefits to so many people. The key is smart tanning and moderation,” Kristina said in response to Dr. James’s comments. “Tanning salons are trained to help their customers with smart tanning.”

Joseph Levy, vice president of the International Smart Tan Network, which has 3,000 member salons, is now rallying support to kill the Tan-tax before it’s too late.

Along with other last ditch efforts, the Indoor Tanning Association has created Stopthetantax.com. The web site allows salon owner and customers to send personalized letters of opposition directly to state representatives and senators.

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3 thoughts on “Tanning Tax to Take Effect in Summer 2010

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