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Monday, October 31, 2005

Botaxes And Frivolous Purchases

3 weeks ago the NYT in the NJ section wrote about the NJ tax on cosmetic surgery. They call it cheekily "Botaxes". The condescension of the writer towards people who purchase medical services for physical enhancement is palpable. How do you like this comment:

How often do you feel like applauding the State Legislature? But this was a surprisingly innovative idea. Consider: A cash-strapped state and 1.3 million residents without health insurance, their hospital costs reimbursed by aforementioned state. At the same time, hordes of people willing and able to come up with substantial sums to buy firmer bodies, more symmetrical faces.

But there is hope since the revenues are not matching the expectations:

But doctors argue that Botaxes, as some wit dubbed them, discriminate against women, the majority of their patients. (By which logic, the sales tax on lipstick should be lifted, too.) They complain about cumbersome paperwork; they worry that consumers will head for Pennsylvania or New York. Medically necessary reconstructive surgery remains exempt, but ''we really don't want to open the door to taxing any medical procedure,'' Dr. Hetzler explained to me.

The reason doctors are persuading legislators, though, has more to do with financial disappointment. State forecasters predicted that Botaxes would raise $24 million a year. Instead, first-year revenue amounted to just $7.5 million. Now even Assemblyman Joseph Cryan, who introduced the legislation, says he's inclined toward repeal because ''economically, it hasn't made sense.''

Note the writer's plea for more such taxes:

[A]fter writing checks for $8,500 or more for trimmer triceps, kicking in a few hundred additional bucks for those who can't afford heart bypasses seems reasonable.

So Mr. Cryan, a modest proposal: Let's expand, not repeal. I suggest a Tanning Tax on patrons of those carcinogenic salons. And, in a blow for gender equality, a Toupee Tax. And perhaps a surcharge, the Just Plain Pathetic Tax, on red sports cars for buyers over 45.



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