'Tanning tax' sparks concern for salon owners

Area tanning salon owners believe they have already been impacted by a new law requiring them to pay a tax on their indoor tanning services.

"We won't know the full effect until January," said Marlies Venable, owner of X-clusive Tan, in McDonough. "That's when we'll know what people really think about it."

Venable said most of her tanning clients come to her during late winter, and early spring. However, she said she has received feedback from regular clients, regarding the law, which went into effect on July 1.

She said the law — part of the Affordable Care Act, enacted in March — is referred to as the tanning tax, because it imposes a 10-percent excise tax on indoor tanning services.

Under the law, the Internal Revenue Service requires providers of indoor tanning services to collect the tax at the time the purchaser pays for the tanning services. The provider then pays the government, through the IRS's Quarterly Federal Excise Tax Return.

"Tanning service providers will not begin to report and pay the tax immediately, but must do so on a quarterly basis," said IRS Spokesman Mark Green. "The first tax payment is due to the IRS on Oct. 31. Along with the payment of tax, tanning service providers must file IRS Form 720, Quarterly Federal Excise Tax Return."

Green said there is a limited exception for certain physical fitness facilities that offer tanning as an incidental service to members, without a separately identifiable fee. Neither does the tax apply to phototherapy services performed by a licensed medical professional on his, or her, premises. He added that the new tax does not include "spray-on" tanning services.

Tanning customers, however, are not pleased with the additional tax, according to Venable.

"They're a little angry about it," said Venable. "Some of our regulars are still coming in, but they feel like it's a service, and services aren't normally taxed. They already pay taxes on tanning products."

Venable said the new tax has affected how some of her regular customers use tanning services. Some, she said, opt out of getting upgrade tanning packages they would have to pay taxes on. Tina Hughes echoed those sentiments. She owns Tanama Tanning Salon in Jonesboro, and said she already has seen a slight drop in client interest in indoor tanning. She links it to the struggling economy and the addition of the "tanning tax."

"It definitely has an impact on my business," Hughes said. "People can't afford it."

Hughes said her average customer pays between $189 to $270 each year on tanning expenses. Her customers, she added, use indoor tanning partly for health reasons.

"People work on their base tan in early spring, heading into the summer months," she said. "Sunlight, be it natural sunlight, or in the tanning beds, produces Vitamin D. Vitamin D is very important to maintain proper organ function and bodily functions. It [tanning] does have similar affects on people as exercising."

IRS Spokesman Green said the agency plans to implement outreach strategies to ensure those impacted by the new tax are aware of how it is calculated, and should be paid. To learn more about the new tax, visit the IRS web site at www.IRS.gov.