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Tanners, salons do slow burn about new tanning tax for health care

FARGO -- Ruby Volla will be doing her part to help pay for health care reform every time she catches a few rays at the tanning salon. Volla, a Fargo woman who uses a tanning salon to help beat the winter blahs, will face a new form of heat beginn...

Tanning salons
Owner of Suntana, John Keller (right) and general manager, Jody Wentz (left) talk about the effects the new health care bill will have on their business because of the 10 percent federal tax on tanning salons. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

FARGO -- Ruby Volla will be doing her part to help pay for health care reform every time she catches a few rays at the tanning salon.

Volla, a Fargo woman who uses a tanning salon to help beat the winter blahs, will face a new form of heat beginning July 1: a federal tax of 10 percent on tanning services.

The tax is expected to raise $2.7 billion over 10 years to help pay for the health reform package, which carries a price tag of $938 billion over the decade.

Indoor tanning salon owners are feeling burned by the tax.

"We definitely have a concern that it's going to have a major tax imposed on our customers," John Keller, the owner of five Suntana tanning salons in Fargo-Moorhead, said. "We feel it's unfair."

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Volla, who stopped by one of Keller's Suntana salons Thursday, isn't thrilled with the new tax. She uses the tanning beds as therapy for seasonal affective disorder in winter months.

Once the tax takes effect, the $39.95 a month Volla pays for unlimited tanning bed use will come with a $4 federal tax.

"When it's something that you do for your health it's something you'll do," she said.

Initially, health reform legislation targeted cosmetic surgery -- the so-called "botax" -- to help pay for the overhaul, a levy that would have raised as much as $6 billion over a decade. Opponents managed to kill that tax.

"I'm kind of baffled why we were singled out," said Keller, who has owned the local Suntana salons since 1987.

Marty Riske, a Fargo businessman who owns two local Sunseekers Tanning salons, said those who frequent tanning parlors tend to be young women who are not wealthy or politically connected.

"That's how this plays," he said. "It's unfortunate. We're probably going to have to raise the prices to accommodate the increase."

The new tax could eliminate some struggling salons, said Keller, who has 107 tanning beds in five locations.

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"Maybe it will take some salon owners out of business," he said. "It's too early to tell."

Separately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering new regulations on tanning beds. Too much exposure to ultraviolet rays can be harmful.

"We've always advocated moderation when tanning," Keller said. "That's been the main message of our industry."

Springer writes for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Herald.

Related Topics: HEALTHCARE
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