By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

Local tanning salon managers and owners aren’t pleased over a 10 percent tax on tanning beds implemented by the federal government.

Starting July 1 all ultraviolet tanning services are assessed a 10 percent federal tax. Salon owners must pay the Internal Revenue Service quarterly. The tax is part of the comprehensive healthcare reform plan passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama. Spray tans are not affected by the law.

While salon managers haven’t yet seen a dip in business as a result, they’ve heard an earful from their customers.

“Nobody’s said they’re not going to do it or anything like that,” said Andrea Nasholm, operations manager of Platinum Sports and Fitness, which manages a Tan Republic facility within their gym. “They just think it’s stupid.”

Mitch Teal, owner of Bronze Planet – which has locations in Keizer and West Salem – said he and wife Cathy opted not to continue pursuing a third location until they see how the new tax will ultimately affect their business.

“We were looking at expanding into a third location, hiring six or eight more employees, putting more people to work and creating a lot more taxes for the government, but unfair taxes on small business like that is going to have a negative effect on collecting taxes locally and on the federal level,” Teal said.

The tax is expected to raise some $2.7 billion over the next decade. What particularly steams Teal, he said, is that the tax was put in the bill when the cosmetic surgery industry lobbied against the originally proposed 5 percent tax on elective cosmetic surgery and on botox treatments.

“The botox industry has a strong lobby, they lobbied Congress and the president and got him to switch it to tanning because there is no strong lobby,” Teal said.

“It was chosen because most tanning salons are owned by mom and pop organizations, and they had no lobby to be able to fight back an unfair tax,” Teal added.

As customers are gradually finding out about the new tax, Teal said he hasn’t had any customers walk out over it. His business was already down due to a sluggish economy, “but it hasn’t been affected dramatically,” he said.

“But a lot of people feel strongly it’s an unfair tax on the middle class,” Teal said. “All of our tanners are middle-class consumers; they’re having to pay a tax and they don’t appreciate it.”

Teal said it will cost additional dollars to have a tax professional prepare the quarterly payments, and has been spending time talking with others in the industry as well as financial experts on how best to collect the tax from customers and which services are taxable.

But some medical groups support the tax, saying it could deter younger users from tanning, which some medical experts say can lead to health problems.

Specifically, the American Academy of Dermatologists cites studies saying those exposed to ultraviolet rays from tanning beds have a 75 percent higher risk of melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer. The association found more than one million people use tanning salons a day, about 70 percent are white girls and women aged 16-29, and about 2.3 million teenagers use a tanning bed every year.

And statistics from the Oregon Department of Health show the state has higher-than-average rates of melanoma. The national rate as of 2005 was 18.4 per 100,000, while the Oregon rate was 24.7. Between 2003-2007, Marion County had an identical rate of cases.

The Indoor Tanning Association is leading an effort to repeal the tax, citing health benefits derived from increased intake of Vitamin D from indoor tanning.