Rep. Ted Yoho: Tanning tax is a racist tax — against white people

August 5, 2013

Rich Pedroncelli/AP

 

Republican Congressman Ted Yoho brought some new attention to the Affordable Care Act's tanning tax, bringing up the subject at a recent town hall meeting in Florida. I'll let the representative take it from here, via ThinkProgress:

I had a little fun with [John] Boehner and told him about the sun tanning tax. He goes, ‘I didn’t know it was in there,’ and I said, ‘Yes, it’s a ten percent tax.’ He goes, ‘Well, that’s not that big of a deal.’ I said, ‘It’s a racist tax.’ He goes, ‘You know what, it is.’ I had an Indian doctor in our office the other day, very dark skin, with two non-dark skin people, and I asked this to him, I said, ‘Have you ever been to a tanning booth?’ and he goes, ‘No, no need.’ So therefore it’s a racist tax and I thought I might need to get to a sun tanning booth so I can come out and say I’ve been disenfranchised because I got taxed because of the color of my skin.

This is not the tanning tax's first moment in the sun (pun most certainly intended!). The tanning tax was, for awhile, referred to as the "Snooki" tax, after the Jersey Shore star made it known that she opposed a 10 percent excise tax on tanning salons.

Get behind the headlines though, and the tanning tax actually proves a relatively vexing health law provision to implement. Its only a few pages in the health care law and is expected to raise $21 billion in revenue. That's not nothing but, in a law that costs $1.3 trillion - that is about as close to nothing as you get.

When I went to an IRS hearing on the tanning tax in 2011, there was a debate over how the excise tax ought to be implemented. The law does impose a tax on “any indoor tanning services equal to 10 percent of the amount paid.” But what about places that offer tanning without a specific fee, like gyms?

As I learned at that hearing, video stores and even laundromats sometimes offer tanning services to draw in customers and often without charge. Preliminary regulations excluded such tanning venues from the excise tax, a decision that tanning salon owners vehemently opposed. In final rules the Internal Revenue Service issued in June, it decided against changing the provision. Laundromats and video stores, you have won this round.

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Neil Irwin · August 5, 2013