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Professor Joel Newman on Indoor Tanning Taxes: Health Care Reform and the Excise Taxon the Artificial Suntan

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the June 2012 edition of the Lexis Federal Journal Quarterly.

The long debate on health care reform produced heat as well as light. Speaker of the House John Boehner became especially incensed about the proposed legislation. He was, “…so apologetic you had to wonder if he had just discovered one of its more obscure revenue-generating provisions, a tax on indoor tanning salons. But the laughs evaporated soon enough.”

The tanning tax was, indeed, obscure. It was introduced in the Senate late at night, only days before Christmas in 2009, and it was stuck at the end of a long, long document. Moreover, it was, indeed, intended to be a revenue-generation provision, though even at best, it was projected to generate less than one percent of the money needed to fund the legislation. But was it funny?

This article will discuss the tanning tax– what it is, how it has worked so far, how it came to be, whether it is here to stay, and whether it makes any sense. It will be left for the reader to determine, however, whether or not it is funny.

4.02 Scope of the Indoor Tanning Exise Tax

The tanning tax is a 10 percent excise tax on indoor tanning services. “Indoor tanning service” means:

“…a service employing any electronic product designed to incorporate 1 or more ultraviolet lamps and intended for the irradiation of an individual by ultraviolet radiation, with wavelengths in air between 200 and 400 nanometers, to induce skin tanning.”

The tax is paid quarterly, using the standard Form 720.

Read more of this article in the Lexis Federal Journal Quarterly.