Tanning tax burns customers
by Holly Tsang
Jul 06, 2010 | 2140 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Can you put a price on beauty? Apparently you can, as Congress demonstrated in March by passing a 10 percent tax on the indoor tanning industry to help pay for the country’s $940 billion health care overhaul, which took effect on July 1.

Tanning customers are unhappy, to say the least, about the 10 percent hike, but most admit that the hike is not enough to make them swear off tanning salons for good.

Laurie Kay, a lawyer, goes to an indoor tanning salon every summer to get a base tan going for the season. Because she only goes occasionally, the increased price will not deter her from getting her usual tan, though she feels that it’s unfair that the burden of costly health care is being borne on the backs of tanning customers.

“They should use the money that they have that they’re hiding and stop complaining they don’t have any money,” she said. “Or at least tax from other places, not beauty.”

Yuri Mosheyev, a pharmacist, went for a 12-minute session at Beach Bum Fresh Meadows on Saturday because he hadn’t had time to go to the beach and had a party to go to later that night. He said many people, including himself, will continue to tan regardless of what it costs.

“Look at cigarettes, for example,” he said. “They were $7 at one point, now they’re $13, but people are still paying for it. It’s an addiction to looking good.”

Mosheyev goes for a tanning session once every three weeks, but he said the higher cost may cause him to at least consider spreading out his visits.

James Oliver, CEO of Beach Bum Tanning, which has multiple locations in New York City, Long Island, Rockland County, Westchester County, Connecticut, New Jersey and Virginia, made the point that the tanning tax plan was not well thought out because it is primarily a tax on the middle class.

According to Oliver, originally a botox tax was proposed. He said the average income of botox customers is in the range of $250,000, while the average income of indoor tanning customer is much, much lower. However, lobbyists got involved, and the botox tax was scrapped.

The tax on the tanning industry will generate an estimated $2.7 billion over ten years, or $2.7 million a year, said Oliver. He pointed out, however, that exempting health clubs and places that do not charge a fee to tan from the tanning tax, as the government has done, will bring that down to $1.7 million a year. The hiring of administrative personnel and auditors to implement the tax, however, will reduce that amount even more.

“Who gets hit with the tax but the middle class?” asked Oliver, pointing out that the average tanning customer earns $30,000 to $50,000. “It’s a tax they’re going to lose money on.”

He said that the original botox tax plan made sense, but the tanning tax could have damaging effects on the indoor tanning industry.

“Either remove the tax or make it fair,” said Oliver. “Instead of 10 percent to us, how about 5 percent to us and 5 percent to the cosmetic industry? If you put a 5 percent tax on botox, people are not going to stop getting it. If you charge a 10 percent tax on tanning, people are not going to go for a tan.”

Perhaps he need not worry, because the truly devoted tanning customers have indicated that they aren’t going anywhere. Francis Lewis High School student Stephanie Sutton may be on a fixed income, but she has been tanning for the last five years, and she has no plans to stop or decrease her visits.

She despises fake-looking spray tans and finds tanning to be a relaxing activity that makes her feel good about herself. In fact, many of her friends from school are tanning salon regulars.

“It’s not fair to tax students; what kind of money do we have?” said Sutton. “But people are going to do what they want, and I’m still going to tan.”
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