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New Tanning Tax In Lieu of "BoTax": A Win/Win for Skin?

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New Tanning Tax In Lieu of "BoTax": A Win/Win for Skin?

December 28, 2009

By: Amanda Dolan for Scars1

Last weekend, the Senate nixed its proposed 5% tax on elective cosmetic procedures with a supplementary 10% on tanning salons. This decision is a win for the members of the American Academy of Dermatologists (AAD) who rallied together against the original bill.

The original tax, informally referred to as the "BoTax" (a play on Botox) was set up to help pay for the $849 billion health care reform. In the proposition, a 5% tax was to be added to any cosmetic surgery that was deemed “not necessary to ameliorate a deformity arising from, or directly related to, a congenital abnormality, a personal injury resulting form an accident or trauma, or disfiguring disease.” Which, according to StopCosmeticTax.org, included a broad range of treatments including “botilinum toxin, dermal filler injections, laser hair removal, microdermabrasion, dental caps and implants, and teeth whitening.”

This tax would have significantly impacted the work of dermatologists, cosmetic surgeons, and their patients. Patients who chose to receive certain procedures, including many scar-removal techniques, would have been taxed an extra 5%. Most scar-removal procedures would likely have been considered “elective” because scars don’t directly impact a person’s physical health. However, those who perform and those who have received these procedures would likely argue that the benefits of scar-removal often transcend mere physical alteration. Rather, their benefits include positively impacting a person’s self-confidence and even mental wellbeing. The Senate’s decision to forego the Botax, then, is good news for patients seeking scar-removal and their doctors.

The supplementary tax has already begun to alarm the tanning salon industry and tanning aficionados. According to a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the tanning tax was already “on the table” even before the proposed Botax. While the AAD is celebrating the triumph of the new bill, it is the tanning industry's turn to protest.

While the original “Botax” hoped to provide $5.8 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal, “an industry spokesman said the US tanning businesses [are] unlikely to earn enough to provide the government with the roughly $2.7 billion over 10 years envisioned by the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.”  In the US, only about 20,000 tanning salons exist--many of whom are already feeling financial strain due to the number of people who have stopped tanning to save money.

However, dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons aren’t out of the woods yet, as the Botax could be reapplied when the bill is officially passed. However, until then, members of the AAD who rallied against the Botax are doubly supportive of the tanning tax as they believe it may reduce instances of skin cancer caused by artificial lamps. Only time will tell if either of the taxes will be approved and whether or not they will positively impact the future of health care reform and treatment options for patients.

Do support the tanning tax in lieu of the Botax? If the Botax is passed, how do you believe the tax will affect the future of scar treatments for patients and doctors?
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