Health Care

Tanning salons prepare for 10% tax

Tanning salons face a new 10 percent tax beginning July 1, the result of the national health care law.

While they don't like the tax, local tanning salon owners say it probably will have less effect on their businesses than some of the other factors they've faced in recent years.

"We'll make it," said Kay Waite, owner of Tan-Do at 550 N. Rock Road. "We'll need to readjust, and we will."

The tax, expected to generate $2.7 billion to help fund an overhaul of the nation's health care system, applies to indoor tanning services that use ultraviolet lamps. State sales taxes already are charged on products sold at tanning salons, but services haven't been taxed.

Sharon Ward, owner of Bronze Age Tanning at 3833 W. 13th St., said she expects the new tanning tax to be a bookkeeping headache. She also offers a hydration station and spray-tanning; they don't use UV lights and won't be taxed.

She expects the tanning tax to have more effect on small operations such as hers than on large national chains.

But "to be real honest," Ward said, she is not sure what it will mean for her business.

The Indoor Tanning Association has said the tax could force 1,000 salons nationwide to shut down.

But a 10 percent tax is nothing, said Ron Walker, owner of three Tan Lines salons in Wichita.

What really hurt was Congress' decision in 2007 to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour over two years, he said.

"Your payroll's your biggest expense," he said. "That's going to hurt worse than that 10 percent."

He and others said bad publicity over the effects of tanning also had hit hard.

"It's been piling on," Waite said. But "we try to find different ways to survive. And we're going to survive this, too."

Tanning salons also could face new restrictions from the federal Food and Drug Administration. An advisory panel recommended in late March that the FDA more strictly regulate tanning beds, including putting age restrictions on them.

Rick Laham, general manager for two Club Tan for Women salons in Wichita, said he didn't object to possible age restrictions.

"We're not going to join the doom-and-gloom club," he said. "If 10 percent's going to make or break you, you probably shouldn't be in the business anyway."

He said he was 99 percent certain that his salons would absorb the cost of the tax rather than passing it along to customers, as most plan to do.

"We're actually going very proactive, and when life hands us a lemon, we turn it into lemonade," he said.

"And the 10 percent tax is a lemon."