Congress Daily recently reported that the US Senate Finance Committee has discussed imposing a 10% surtax on many cosmetic procedures that it deems "unnecessary" for medical purposes, in order to generate some of the billions needed to fund the health-care reform scheme.
The Senate panel's chairman, Max Baucus, says he heard some "interesting," "creative," and "kind of fun" ideas in a meeting earlier this month with Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag during which the tax on tummy tucks and such was brought up.
Credit for bringing the story to wider attention also goes to the Drudge Report, which featured accompanying photos of Vice President Joe Biden and his hair implants and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with wide eyes, unfurrowed brow, and taut jawline not typical of most grandmothers. Plastic Surgery Tax Eyed As Revenue Raiser (hat tip to Wendy):
The tax, which has not been officially scored, would plug some of the revenue gap senators are seeking to fill to keep on schedule for a markup the week of Aug. 3. It would target procedures prohibited under Section 213 of the tax code, which deals with itemized deductions for medical expenses not covered by health insurance.
The 1990 deficit-reduction law prohibited taxpayers from taking deductions for cosmetic surgery "unless the surgery or procedure is necessary to ameliorate a deformity arising from, or directly related to, a congenital abnormality, a personal injury resulting from an accident or trauma, or a disfiguring disease."
The law defines cosmetic surgery as "any procedure which is directed at improving the patient's appearance and does not meaningfully promote the proper function of the body or prevent or treat illness or disease."
According to the IRS, deductions for procedures such as reconstructive surgery due to cancer or laser eye surgery would be allowed. But nose jobs, liposuction, teeth-whitening procedures and Botox injections to smooth wrinkles would be prohibited under Sec. 213 and subject to the new tax.
A number of states have tried to impose excise taxes on cosmetic surgery, with little success. The only state with such a law on the books is New Jersey. Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine vetoed a bill to repeal the state's 6 percent tax on cosmetic surgery gross receipts in 2007, even after the repeal passed unanimously in both the state Assembly and Senate.
Malcolm Roth, vice president for health policy and advocacy at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, said the New Jersey tax has only brought in about 25 percent of anticipated revenue since it was enacted in 2004 and imposes "another bureaucratic layer," including questions of how to determine what procedures are eligible. Roth said lawmakers at the federal level could expect the same administrative headaches and lack of anticipated revenues if they went down the New Jersey route.