Nip and tuck tax has a few wrinkles

Beware: A tummy tuck tariff is lurking in the minds of Democrats.

They say vanity is a pricey pursuit and the state deserves a cut of the action.

Democratic state Sen. Karen Keiser proposed this week to charge a sales tax on cosmetic surgeries and spend the money on health care for low-income children.

She figures those who get the work done can afford to hand over a little extra for kids in need of routine checkups.

Maybe it will spur “Botox parties for babies,” she joked.

The idea is serious. Keiser’s co-sponsors are among those who will write the Senate’s version of the state budget and are seeking sources of revenue to fund the Democratic agenda.

As you might imagine, Republicans and surgeons want to nip the liposuction levy before it gets tucked into the final spending guide.

“It sounds like a tax on the ugly. She’s discriminating against the homely and the vain,” said Republican Sen. Pam Roach of Auburn, who is of a mind to arrange a Botox Tea Party.

Cosmetic surgery is a huge money-making industry, and only one state, New Jersey, taxes it. Nationwide, surgeons performed an estimated 8.7 million procedures in 2003 and earned $8.4 billion, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Rhinoplasty, better known as a nose job, generated $1.14 billion alone. Close behind were Botox injections at $1.01 billion.

The average surgeon’s fee nationwide for a nose reshaping was $3,188, for a breast implant $3,375 and for a tummy tuck $4,641. Botox was cheap by comparison, at $376 a jab.

Keiser, citing New Jersey’s take, guessed that Washington could net $26 million a year from the tax. That would require $400 million worth of edifying, beautifying and satisfying surgeries.

By my calculations, one out of five adults in our state would have to buy a Botox injection each year to hit the bar. Or, 86,188 individuals would need to get a tummy tuck.

The tax would be paid by those older than 18 who seek cosmetic medical services or undergo cosmetic surgery that reshapes “the normal structures on the body to improve the body image, self-esteem or appearance.”

Reconstructive and medically necessary operations would not be taxed. Penile implants, an elective surgery, also would be exempt.

When New Jersey lawmakers enacted their vanity tax in June, they acted so swiftly in the final hours of the legislative session that doctors had no time to mount opposition.

There won’t be such an anesthetic response in Olympia Wednesday when the tax is debated in the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee.

Dr. Phil Haeck, a leader of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, plans to tell legislators that as tempting as the tax seems, they must resist.

“This is not about vanity. This is about self-esteem,” he said. “How can you tax that?”

Reporter Jerry Cornfield can be reached at 360-352-8623 or jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

Heavy traffic northbound on 1-5 in Everett, Washington on August 31, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
On I-5 in Everett, traffic nightmare is reminder we’re ‘very vulnerable’

After a police shooting shut down the freeway, commutes turned into all-night affairs. It was just a hint of what could be in a widespread disaster.

Anthony Brock performs at Artisans PNW during the first day of the Fisherman’s Village Music Fest on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
At downtown Everett musical festival: ‘Be weird and dance with us’

In its first night, Fisherman’s Village brought together people who “might not normally be in the same room together” — with big acts still to come.

Two troopers place a photo of slain Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd outside District 7 Headquarters about twelve hours after Gadd was struck and killed on southbound I-5 about a mile from the headquarters on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Judge reduces bail for driver accused of killing Marysville trooper

After hearing from Raul Benitez Santana’s family, a judge decreased bail to $100,000. A deputy prosecutor said he was “very disappointed.”

Pet detective Jim Branson stops to poke through some fur that Raphael the dog found while searching on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Everett, Washington. Branson determined the fur in question was likely from a rabbit, and not a missing cat.(Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lost a pet? Pet detective James Branson and his dogs may be able to help

James Branson, founder of Three Retrievers Lost Pet Rescue, helps people in the Seattle area find their missing pets for $350.

Community Transit leaders, from left, Chief Communications Officer Geoff Patrick, Zero-Emissions Program Manager Jay Heim, PIO Monica Spain, Director of Maintenance Mike Swehla and CEO Ric Ilgenfritz stand in front of Community Transit’s hydrogen-powered bus on Monday, May 13, 2024, at the Community Transit Operations Base in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New hydrogen, electric buses get trial run in Snohomish County

As part of a zero-emission pilot program from Community Transit, the hydrogen bus will be the first in the Puget Sound area.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Video: Man charged at trooper, shouting ‘Who’s the boss?’ before shooting

The deadly shooting shut down northbound I-5 near Everett for hours. Neither the trooper nor the deceased had been identified as of Friday.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Road rage, fatal police shooting along I-5 blocks traffic near Everett

An attack on road workers preceded a report of shots fired Thursday, snarling freeway traffic in the region for hours.

The Port of Everett and Everett Marina on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Is Port of Everett’s proposed expansion a ‘stealth tax?’ Judge says no

A Snohomish resident lost a battle in court this week protesting what he believes is a misleading measure from the Port of Everett.

Pablo Garduno and the team at Barbacoa Judith’s churn out pit-roasted lamb tacos by the dozen at the Hidden Gems Weekend Market on Sunday, April 28, 2024, at Boom City in Tulalip, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Eating our way through Tulalip’s Hidden Gems weekend market

Don’t miss the pupusas, pit-roasted lamb tacos, elotes and even produce for your next meal.

Reed Macdonald, magniX CEO. Photo: magniX
Everett-based magniX appoints longtime aerospace exec as new CEO

Reed Macdonald will take the helm at a pivotal time for the company that builds electric motors for airplanes.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.