Tanning tax set to go into place

By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal

Amy Lewis of Belden likes her skin to have a golden glow. She’s been going to indoor tanning salons for the past five to 10 years to achieve the just-back-from-the-beach look.
“I think a tan makes a person look healthier,” she said. “To me, a pale person just doesn’t look healthy. Of course, that’s just my opinion.”
But her tanning habit may change soon. A 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services, except for spray tans, is slated to go into effect July 1 throughout the country. The tax was included in the health care bill Congress passed in March.
It’s up to the salon owners to decide if they will pay the tax out of their pocket or if they will increase their prices. The decision will make a difference for Lewis, who is unemployed.
“I can barely afford to lay now,” she said.
A Daily Journal survey of tanning salons in the area found about half of the salons plan to pass along the tax, while the other half will absorb the extra 10 percent or at least some of it.
At Southern Tans in Tupelo, owner Elizabeth Gray said she will raise her prices. But she plans to run “tax-free” specials, too.
She said her clients have told her they’ll continue to tan despite any price changes.
“I hate to go up on them because it’s so unfair,” she said. “I have a lot of single mothers who tan with me. … We’ll see how it goes. I may have to eat half of [the tax]. Most of my clients that I explain it to say, ‘We understand.’”
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the tax was added to raise money to offset health care costs associated with skin cancer.
Government analysts, according to media reports, estimate the tax will raise $2.7 billion over 10 years.
However, the Indoor Tanning Association says the figure is “vastly overestimated.”
The organization says the tax was a political move and will punish women and a struggling sector of the small business community.
“Of all industries nationwide, they picked tanning salons,” said Don Taylor, co-owner of Magical Tans in Tupelo. “Everyone seems to be a little bit in awe of how tanning was picked out of the group. We probably had the least amount of lobbyists up there.”
The ITA currently is asking tanning salon owners and tanners to write to their congressional representatives and ask for the tax to be removed during the reconciliation process.
But as of last week, area owners are preparing for the change.
Many say their clients have indicated that they won’t reduce their tanning visits because of the increased prices.
Yet some customers like Kimberly Otto of Mooreville expects to cut back on tanning if prices rise 10 percent. She usually tans two to three times a week in the spring and fall. But she’s taking a tanning hiatus because she’s pregnant, even though she is legally allowed to tan in Mississippi.
She’s also concerned about health risks such as skin cancer. But she still hits the tanning bed because she likes the way her skin looks when she’s tan.
“I know some people who do it every day, and I wouldn’t do that,” Otto said.
Kellie Byars of Saltillo tans weekly but takes precautions, such as covering her face when she’s in the tanning bed.
“Tan fat looks better than white fat on me,” she said, laughing. “It’s my time away. It’s that little plus I give myself a couple times a week.”
She said she does have some concerns about tanning but doesn’t think the industry merits a specific tax.
“It’s all about doing it in moderation,” she said. “Eating has health issues, too.”

Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or carlie.kollath@djournal.com.

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