burns tanning salons
With controversy centering on the vague yet now-politically explosive term “public option” and long-running battles over abortion assuming center stage in the health-care reform debate some local businesses are feeling more than a bit blindsided by one element of a U.S. Senate-passed plan.
The U.S. Senate, on a party-line vote, passed a sweeping heath-care bill that includes a 10 percent federal sales tax on tanning salons.
“I’m not real happy with Mr. Obama right now,” said Sue Graff, owner of Rev Salon in Carroll.
Obama’s Democratic Party crafted the health-care legislation that passed the Senate. The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate must reconcile their respective bills before health-care reform hits the president’s desk. While tanning-salon owners are furious about the tax, which would be lumped on to their services on top of state and local taxes, they aren’t as organized or politically muscular as the plastic surgery industry which fended off a 5 percent tax, popularly known as the “botax.”
“I just think we’re getting picked on and I don’t think it’s fair,” Graff said.
Graff’s Rev Salon has five tanning beds and one standing unit. She says it represents about 40 percent of Rev’s business.
“I think we’re going to get affected,” she said.
Graff said a mix of people, including many teen-agers, use the tanning services.
That’s why Janelle Berg, owner of Sun Studios in Carroll, thinks politicians are going after tanning.
“We get a lot of teens that come in and they’re going to be taxed,” Berg said. “My guess is they (lawmakers) are trying to get another demographic of people they can tax.”
Berg’s business has eight tanning beds, which represents about 50 percent of activity there, she said.
She’s not happy about the 10 percent federal tax, which when added to the state and local sales taxes, will create a whopping 17 percent hit on tanners. But Berg doesn’t believe the tanning industry can do much about it at this point.
“What gives them the right to do that?” Berg said. “But what can I do about it?”
Added Graff, “I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t think it was thought through.”
Graff said news of the tax breaks at a bad time: many customers who are gearing up for winter vacations to warmer climates will be coming in soon.
Both Graff and Berg said the tax emerged seemingly out of nowhere, catching them by surprise.
That said, Graff isn’t sure how her business will handle the tax if it stays intact for the final bill.
“At this time we have not sat down to discuss what we will do with it,” Graff said.
The tax is aimed at generated $2.7 billion over 10 years to help pay for a health-care package designed to cover millions of more Americans.
There are an estimated 20,000 tanning salons in the U.S., mostly stand-alone shops, Dan Humiston, president of the Indoor Tanning Association, told The Wall Street Journal.
In the end, tanning businesses, which are often part of other enterprises like Rev and Sun Studios, didn’t have the organizing strength of their political foes.
Dermatologists and surgeons lobbied to kill the proposed 5 percent tax on cosmetic procedures. They were successful in doing so by floating the idea of the 10 percent tanning tax.
“I don’t think it’s fair,” Graff said.
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