Tanning tax will add new burden for salon owners, patrons

Users of tanning beds likely will see a price increase when the tanning tax goes into affect June 1. (Photo courtesy of Zach Neugebauer)
Users of tanning beds likely will see a price increase when the tanning tax goes into effect June 1. (Photo courtesy of Zach Neugebauer)

Tommies may pay more to be tan this year.

As part of the recently passed health care bill, a new tanning tax will put a 10 percent sales tax on the service, meaning it’ll take a little more green to get that desired bronze.

The new sales tax goes into effect June 1. The tax applies to tanning beds, stand-up tanning booths and sun lamps, but tanning lotions and spray-tan services will not see an increase in tax.

The tax is directed at tanning salon owners who will likely have to pass the cost on to clients, but that’s something St. Thomas senior and Year Round Brown Vice President ZachNeugebauer doesn’t want to do.

Neugebauer has seven tanning salons in South Dakota. He started playing a role in the 30 year-old family business as a freshman in college and prompted a complete remodel of the salons and of the company’s overall image.

“My vision was always give your customers that five-star experience, that Four Seasons Hotel experience but give that to them at a value price,” Neugebauer said.

But with the tanning tax, giving customers value will be hader than ever. Neugebauer said he doesn’t want to increase prices to compensate for the new tax, but said he will have to see what the next six months to a year will bring. He said by increasing sales or the price of products, the company may be able to lighten the burden.

But no matter what it does, Neugebauer understands that with clientele in their teens and twenties, his business will likely take a hit.

The new tax was originally meant to be a 5 percent sales tax on Botox and other elective cosmetic procedures, but was changed to a tanning tax after forceful lobbying by the plastic surgery industry and Botox manufacturers.

Senior Tiffany Bloomquist said the increased price will change the habits of some tanners, but it won’t get them to leave tanning altogether.

“I think if they tan often and they tan on a regular basis, more than just a few times a week, especially like in the summer, then they’re going to go no matter what,” Bloomquist said.

Bloomquist is already locked in to her year-round tanning package and said she likely will not see a price increase after June 1.

“I think it may have a consequence as maybe more people will start to learn about tanning and what kind of tanning is bad tanning and what kind of tanning is OK,” Bloomquist said. “They’ll start to educate themselves more about how tanning is affecting them.”

The economic situation

The proposed tax on Botox was expected to raise $5 billion in 10 years, while the tanning tax is only expected to bring in about half of that, $2.7 billion in the next decade.

“[The tanning tax] is very questionable, even if you’re for or against tanning just on an economic standpoint,” Neugebauer said. “The numbers are not quite the same, but in politics that’s kind of the way it goes.”

However the numbers add up, Neugebauer said the tax isn’t fair for small business owners, especially when on Capitol Hill, the tanning industry is the underdog.

“It’s tough to get a bunch of ‘mom and pop’ shops all across the country together, raise the finances, the money and lobby,” Neugebauer said. “And so the medical association with their big companies and they have all kinds of dollars, they can lobby all day long, it’s very tough for us.”

Ashley Bolkcom can be reached at awbolkcom@stthomas.edu.

8 Replies to “Tanning tax will add new burden for salon owners, patrons”

  1. Tanning causes skin cancer, and it makes sense for those who go tanning to help defray the costs to taxpayers for skin cancer treatment by paying a tax. We tax smokers to help defray the costs of medical treatment that result from smoking, and so I think it’s only fair that we do the same for tanning. I opposed the new healthcare law as a whole, but this provision of it makes perfect sense to me.

  2. I agree with Michael completely! What’s the difference between tanning and smoking? Either way you’re hurting yourself and forcing others to help pay the medical bills. If anything, I would say that the tax is too low.

  3. Michael, it looks like we’re on the same page on this one.  This is no different than smoking as far as health is concerned, and should be taxed due to increased medical costs, etc.

  4. This tax may lead us down a slippery slope. If we start taxing tanning bed users are we going to tax soda drinkers? or people who eat at fast food restaurants? or people who work in environments with a lot of second hand smoke present? (This one doesn’t apply in Minnesota of course.) Or how about coal miners who are at risk of black lung disease? Or construction workers who remove asbestos from buildings which can lead to lung issues?

    I’m sure you get my drift here. I feel like we all have the right to make personal choices and if those choices happen to be harmful to our health, then so be it. I do not, however, think that taxpayers should shoulder the burden of increased health care costs. That should be borne by the individual choosing to partake in these “harmful” activities. This leads to a discussion for a different day on if the government (taxpayers) should ever bear the costs of individual’s health care. It looks like this is the direction we are heading in, for better or worse, but I do not think that we should step onto the slippery slope that this new tax would create.

  5. This tax discriminates against white people, who are effectively singled out by its application.

  6. It seems to me that justifying a tax by appealing to another tax, based on compensating for a third tax, might not be the best idea. It seems to me that a better solution would be to cut the third tax and eliminate the need for the other two.

  7. Don, it does not target a certain race or ethnic group. I know people who are not white that go tanning as well.

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