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Tax on Tanning

Salons to pay additional fees to pay for health care law

June 27, 2010
By RICHARD NILSEN, For The Leader-Herald

Beginning this week, tanning booth users may soon have to pay a bit more for the service.

A 10 percent tax on indoor tanning will go into effect Thursday as part of an amendment to the health care bill recently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama. It is to replace the withdrawn elective plastic surgery tax that had been called the "botax" because of the 5 percent tax on botox and other cosmetic procedures.

The expected $2.7 billion in revenue from the new tax has been called into question by some in the tanning industry.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan

Total Tan customer Bob Deming of Gloversville gets ready to lower the top of a tanning bed.

Rachel Mitchell is director of operations for Total Tan, which has a store at 211 N. Comrie Ave. in Johnstown. She takes issue with the estimated revenue to be generated by the tax.

"The estimate is too high, probably twice what the tax will actually generate," Mitchell said Monday. "The economic impact will hurt the lower- and middle-class people who use tanning salons and especially women, who are the majority of owners and patrons of indoor tanning."

Mitchell said Total Tan has 27 outlets in New York and three in Pennsylvania, with 400 employees. She said despite the recession, her business has seen steady growth in the past few years, and this new tax can do nothing but hurt her business and her patrons.

"Money used for tanning comes from disposable income, and [that] is one of the first things that will be cut when people have to economize," she said. "The tax is also unfair because it doesn't include health clubs that have a tanning option. A health club can add a tanning bed without tax, but a tanning salon with a stair climber still has to tax its patrons."

Tom Garofalo has carried on Mr. G's salon in Gloversville for nearly 48 years, a business his father started in 1925. He added tanning beds in 1984, and agreed with Mitchell that little good is likely to come from the tax.

"It makes me a tax collector for the state," he said Tuesday. "It just adds to my paperwork."

Garofalo said he didn't believe the tax will have a huge effect on loyal patrons who have been longtime customers. He said it would likely have more effect on mainstream tanning salons in highly traveled areas like Total Tan.

"It will discourage new businesses from starting up and new customers who had thought about tanning," Garofalo said. "I don't think the tax will impact my tanning business that much, though. It may in the short term. But people who really want the service will pay the extra cost. Look at cigarette smokers. They pay the price in spite of taxes."

Garofalo said the tanning business had already slowed somewhat due to publicized health concerns about ultra violet radiation from tanning beds. He also said mega-salons had taken a lot of the tanning business and he couldn't really compete with them.

Mitchell agreed publicized health concerns hadn't helped her business, and thought the concerns were overblown.

"The Vitamin D from tanning and sense of well-being and relaxation from tanning, especially in winter, are plusses," she said. "We can't advertise health benefits from indoor tanning, but they are there."

Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry President Wally Hart said the tax on indoor tanning was an example of what is wrong with government's poor attitude toward business.

"The tanning tax is the pinnacle of the government saying, 'What have we got left we can still tax?'" Hart said Tuesday. "How will they enforce it? It's just another layer of government administration that is taxing us to death."

According to a CNN News report, the "tanning tax" will apply to ultraviolet lamps with wavelengths between 200 and 400 nanometers. Any businesses that use sunless tanning options such as spray tans and tanning lotions are not included in the tax.



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