By Stacie Clifford Kitts, CPA
I really don’t have anything against women or men for that matter, who want to make some appearance enhancements.
However, as it turns out, some politicians do.
Here is the reality, “average” folk seek out and pay for cosmetic surgery. The reasons why are probably as varied as the numerous cosmetic procedures available to anyone willing to go there. I suppose if you are interested enough, you can get a comprehensive list of reasons from your local therapist.
Nevertheless, I think you will be surprised to learn that you probably know someone who has gone under the knife. Frankly, I don’t know many women (over 35) who haven’t had something done, even if it’s just a little Botox around the eyes or the permanent removal of some unwanted hair.
However, regardless of a person’s reasons, vanity it seems, is something our lawmakers believe should be discouraged and even punished.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act now in the Senate has declared VANITY as the eighth deadly sin punishable by the imposition of a 5% excise tax. The bill, now in its fourth draft was originally introduced in the House as the Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act of 2009 by a myriad of politicians. You can check out the first draft, which includes a list of those politicians here.
The bill, which apprises to seek affordable healthcare also imposes an additional tax on those people wishing to improve their appearance or self esteem via cosmetic surgery.
Of course, the current draft has some fairness weaved in for those needing reconstructive or corrective procedures. Here’s a taste of what we get:
- `(a) In General- There is hereby imposed on any cosmetic surgery and medical procedure a tax equal to 5 percent of the amount paid for such procedure (determined without regard to this section), whether paid by insurance or otherwise.
- `(b) Cosmetic Surgery and Medical Procedure- For purposes of this section, the term `cosmetic surgery and medical procedure’ means any cosmetic surgery (as defined in section 213(d)(9)(B)) or other similar procedure which–
- `(1) is performed by a licensed medical professional, and
- `(2) is not necessary to ameliorate a deformity arising from, or directly related to, a congenital abnormality, a personal injury resulting from an accident or trauma, or disfiguring disease.
As a CPA and advisor, my first thought on the subject is just this, if after you have maxed out your retirement contributions, saved for a rainy day (at least 6 month salary set aside), figured out how you are going to meet your children’s needs including college, purchased adequate medical insurance, considered life insurance and other retirement arrangements, then it might be okay to check out a cosmetic enhancement – if that’s your thing.
Now assuming your procedure of choice is elective, let’s look at the tax cost under the provisions of the proposed “vanity tax.” Let’s assume that your choice is a new rack, which will cost you $10,000. The 5% tax on your new boobs would be an additional $500. Now from a realistic standpoint, and in my humble opinion, if you can’t scrape together an additional $500, then frankly you probably can’t afford the boobs and shouldn’t be getting them anyway.
But really – let’s put the “who can afford it” stuff aside and delve in. This provision actually falls under the WTF category – don’t you think?
I can’t say that I am totally opposed to taxing behavior. That is, I agree with sin taxes. Taxes on cigarettes and alcohol for instance do provide a certain amount of good since these products have been shown to cause harm to the public welfare. Likewise, the cost of treating people who have made themselves sick by indulging in unhealthy activities or behaviors must be considered – I get that – and if a tax on so called unhealthy products helps to relieve the public burden, then so be it.
But is cosmetic surgery really sinful? Personally, I fail to see how it is. Maybe our lawmakers can explain to me how slimmer hips, larger breasts, or plumper lips harms the public welfare or places a financial burden on the government.
But what is even more perplexing is just how or why cosmetic surgery won the tax lottery. I fear that this type of legislation opens the door for a whole litany of WTF taxes. I mean why not tack on an additional tax for hair coloring, nail salons, or makeup. These are also vanity products. Frankly where does it stop?
I am all for affordable health care, balancing the budget, and reducing debt. But come on lawmakers, I find it hard to believe that you can’t do better.
If you are interested in perusing the entire bill, you can find it here.