Will 'Botax' Crimp Cosmetic Enhancements?

December 5, 2009

Marketers of skin creams, serums and other anti-aging products may receive a boost from an unlikely source...the U.S. Government. In an effort to boost revenue, congress is calling for a tax on "unnecessary" surgical procedures including botox injections and elective cosmetic procedures.

Dubbed the "Botax," a provision in the Senate’s bill to charge a 5 percent tax for elective cosmetic procedures has maskers of aesthetic treatment products and plastic surgeons up in arms.

The charge is part of the $849 billion Senate bill to overhaul the nation’s health care system, according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal.

A federal tax on cosmetic enhancements, from breast implants to laser hair removal to face lifts, is estimated to raise $5.8 billion in 10 years, according to some estimates.

It exempts cosmetic procedures used to correct deformities from congenital abnormalities, personal injuries or disfiguring diseases.

Lobbying against the provision has ramped up quickly, with companies from the medical cosmetics world arguing that it discriminates against women. For example, Allergan Inc., a leading producer of medical aesthetics products including Botox, described the levy as a discriminatory tax on women in Middle America.

“Contrary to popular stereotypes, medical procedures to improve one’s appearance are generally not luxury items of the wealthy class. Indeed, nearly 90 percent of cosmetic procedure patients are middle class women,” according to the company’s Stop the Cosmetic Tax Web site stated.

It cited a 2004 study showing that 60 percent of prospective cosmetic surgery patients reported having an annual household income of $30,000-$90,000. Of that group, 40 percent said they made $30,000-$60,000.

Another tax on the Middle Class? Maybe, but such a tax just might push women to the cosmetic counter rather than the surgeon's office.

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