Tax Law

Federal Tanning Tax Is Dumb Idea

[T]he ten percent tax on indoor tanning sessions passed to help fund health care reform is a bad idea. Society should be hesitant to impose taxes on specific products or services. And it should do so only when there is a reason... This law passed because the tanning industry has no lobbyists and no clout in Washington. The are approximately 18,000 tanning salons in the United States and the tax is expected to generate $2.7 billion over the next 10 years.

View TaxAnalysts' David Brunori's opinion in its entirety on

  • This is a typical excise tax - typical in the sense that it is imposed ostensibly to advance a socially desirable objective in addition to generating revenue. In other words, it is a "sin" tax. In this instance, the social mission being promoted is the prevention of skin cancer.

    Skin cancer is an insidious malady. It can be deadly, and often is. Few people appreciate that the incidence of skin cancer in this country is as high, or higher, than other cancers that plague are citizens. In fact, one out of 16 Americans will contract skin cancer of some type during their lifetimes. The odds are only getting worse as our exposure to harmful UV factors increases with environmental changes.

    (It is worth noting also that skin cancer is on the rise in other parts of the world. In Australia, for example, one out of four people are likely to be diagnosed with skin cancer during their lifetimes.)

    Yes, there are some hard-working entrepreneurs that will take a hit along with their employees because of the tanning tax.  But isn't this a tax worth living for?

  • I agree that skin cancer is an unpleasant illness, but at what point in our society do we stand up and decide that taxes are not meant to be instruments of social reform. While all such taxes start out with the noblest of causes (prevent smoking, or excessive drinking, or skin cancer) at some point these lofty ambitions can and often do deterioriate into something far less noble.