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Proposed 10% National Tax on Cosmetic Surgery

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

In a news report from yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee discussed imposing a 10% tax on cosmetic surgery. Some of this would include all elective, non-reconstructive surgery, fillers, Botox and cosmetic dental procedures.  This is certainly walking a slippery slope. This bill would discriminate against women, who make up 84% of patients undergoing cosmetic surgery, according to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.  This would also more heavily impact middle income patients, those who saved up for years to have cosmetic procedures to enhance their appearance and consequently their self esteem. Cosmetic surgery is not performed on just rich “Park Avenue” types and Hollywood celebrities; in fact the vast majority of patients come from middle and upper-middle income brackets. It is these patients who would be most affected and might think twice before having procedures to improve features that they are unhappy with and might have been teased about since childhood.

Joseph Cryan, the New Jersey of the New Jersey Democratic State committee sponsored a cosmetic surgery tax bill in New Jersey that was passed in 2004. However, this effort has failed miserably. The original projection was for revenues of $24 million per year. The revenue the first year was less than $7.6 million or over a 30% shortfall from the projected amount. New Jersey legislators have also found that it was quite difficult imposing, sorting and collecting these fees. One of the reasons is that insurance companies differ on what is considered “cosmetic” vs. inborn or congenital deformities as well as other coverage and approval issues. As a matter of fact, this very same individual sponsored a bill in 2006 to repeal this very same tax. It was passed unanimously by the state legislature but was vetoed by the governor who felt that any money, no matter how small or difficult to acquire, is revenue.

You can see my interview on CBS TV News from last night August 28th: Interview

So, there are at least four reasons to reject this proposal:

  1. It discriminates against women
  2. Those who can barely afford appearance enhancing treatments will no longer consider cosmetic surgery, which will once again be only for the rich
  3. The government will have to create methods to determine and distinguish cosmetic from reconstructive procedures
  4. It didn’t work on a smaller scale, as in New Jersey, how can it work on a much larger scale with less direct oversight than is possible on the state level?

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