Tanning Tax Heats Up Controversy

July 21, 2010 | By: TaxCure Staff

tanning-taxThe practice of taxing vices such as smoking and drinking is nothing new but does tanning really fit into that list? In order to help cover the cost of the $940 billion dollar healthcare bill, the Obama administration has now turned to tax indoor tanning. By adding an additional 10% tax to this controversial habit, the government is predicted to raise close to $3 billion dollars within 10 years. Going tanning has always been viewed as taboo and is heavily criticized for its adverse health effects and risks. Indoor tanning actively done before the age of 35 is reported to lead to a 75% increase in the risk of skin cancer; a scary figure especially when considering the 2.3 million teenagers that go tanning each year alone. Given the dangers associated with tanning and the increased revenue that it will generate it is hard to argue against this act. The logic is there.

Disapproval over the new tax has brought together perhaps two of the most unlikely people, Sen. John McCain and reality television star, Snooki. When complaining to a crowd last month Snooki confidently claimed that John McCain would never have taxed tanning because “he’s pale and would probably want to be tan.” Shocking young and old alike, McCain quickly responded on Twitter agreeing with Snooki.

The new tanning tax has heated up the debate with more than just people unhappy to pay the increased price for their yearlong tan and is now being accused of reverse racism. Allegations surfaced from social media sites and bloggers alike and have now grabbed the attention of mainstream media outlets. The reasoning behind these outcries stems from the fact that those who partake in indoor tanning are primarily white and will therefore be the ones forced to carry the burden of the tax.

Despite the increased publicity, the issue has raised, the complaint actually has very little merit or legal credibility. Unless the reasoning behind the tanning tax was to specifically target Caucasians, those fighting the tax have no case. And this was clearly not the intention of politicians despite what extreme radio host Doc Thompson will lead you to believe. It is simply a tax to not only generate much-needed revenue but is perhaps even warranted alone in the negative effect it will have on the number of Americans turning to indoor tanning.

With all the attention the tanning tax has generated, you would be surprised that it was not even initially in the bill. Lawmakers instead previously sought to enact a 5% tax on optional cosmetic surgery, namely breast implants and Botox, a bill that quickly adopted the name, “Botax.” Lobbying groups were quick to squash this act despite the $5.8 billion it was expected to bring in, a number that easily overshadows the predicted tanning tax revenue. While the tanning tax is also coming under fire for the large impact that it will have on the middle class and woman-owned business (close to 70% of tanning salons are run by women), the “Botax” would have affected the upper-class who would be less impacted by the increase in price.