My oldest daughter tans at the drop of a hat. Even in early spring, she starts to brown a little bit while the rest of us stay fairly pasty (I got it honest with my Welsh roots). She’s just now starting to realize the difference and for some reason, it bothers her (we’ve also had the argument about why “Amy gets to change the color of her eyes”).

Yesterday, she was comparing the color of her arm to mine (ha!) and to her dad’s and complaining about it. Finally, my husband looked at her and said, “Sweetie, what you have is called a tan. And people pay a LOT of money to get a tan. A lot.”

It’s true. I grew up in coastal North Carolina where I was the palest resident for a good 20 mile radius. Everybody had a tan by Easter. But here in Philly, it takes a little more effort. There are tanning salons all over the place and they are usually quite busy. Despite the initial uproar over the so-called tanning tax that went into effect over the weekend, that isn’t likely to change (Snooki being the exception, apparently, as she claims that she’ll switch to spray on tans).

The tax likely won’t deter patrons but it does mean more paperwork for salons. Salons (and other businesses providing ultraviolet tanning services) are responsible for collecting a 10% excise tax on the applicable tanning services. Spray on tans and phototherapy services are not included. If the customer doesn’t pay the tax, the salon is still liable for the tax.

Bundled services should be unbundled, to the extent possible, to figure the portion of the tax attributable to tanning. If, however, the service is part of a gym or other fitness center package that isn’t separable, there’s no tax payable.

Tax is remitted by the salons once a quarter using a federal form 720. That’s the form used for all sorts of excise taxes including the oil spill tax, the teletypewriter exchange service tax, fuel taxes and passenger taxes for ships.

The tanning tax is expected to raise $2.7 billion over 10 years. That’s a lot of UVA rays.

I’m curious – has the tax changed your mind about tanning?

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Kelly Erb is a tax attorney, tax writer and podcaster.

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