Doctors Denounce Nose-Job Tax

June 21, 2005

While debate rages over whether plastic surgery taxes make economic sense (see here, here, here, here and here), the American Medical Association heartily denounced so-called “Bo-taxes” at their annual meeting in Chicago last week:

Taxing cosmetic procedures “sets a troubling precedent for the taxation of additional medical procedures,” according to a resolution introduced at the AMA’s annual meeting in Chicago…

Jackson said the tax discriminates against women, who get about 85 percent of cosmetic procedures. And it could lead to taxes on other elective procedures, such as teeth braces and laser eye surgery.

Currently New Jersey is the only state with a tax on plastic surgery (6 percent gross receipts tax on elective procedures, and a 3.5 percent tax on all surgical centers), but at least six other states have considered them.

The New Jersey tax was intended to shore up state coffers. But according to some critics the tax is collecting less than anticipated thanks to administrative snafus:

[I]n New Jersey, revenues from the tax have fallen 75 percent short of expectations…

One reason for the shortfall is the difficulty in defining what constitutes a cosmetic procedure. For example, reducing breast size can have a medical benefit of relieving back pain, while a nose job can improve breathing.


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