IRS’s Difficulty Collecting Obamacare Tanning Tax Is a Troubling Sign
Curtis Dubay /
President Obama is fond of saying he hasn’t raised anyone’s taxes. How soon he forgets the $500 billion tax hike in his health care law. Obamacare raised 18 separate taxes and included a brand new 10 percent excise tax on tanning beds. The tanning bed tax started in July 2010.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) should have little trouble collecting this ridiculous tax. It already collects several other excise taxes on things like alcohol, tobacco, and gas. And the federal government has collected excises since the beginning of the republic. An increase of the excise tax on whiskey caused the Whiskey Rebellion back in the 1790s. But things haven’t gone as smoothly for the IRS as they should have. From USA Today:
Using an April 2010 Indoor Tanning Association estimate, the IRS initially projected the tax would be due quarterly from roughly 25,000 stand-alone tanning salons, plus spas, health clubs and beauty parlors.
But the inspector general report found that actual tax returns filed for the first three quarters through March 31 averaged just above 10,300.
Tanning tax receipts for that nine-month period totaled $54.4 million, the report found. That was below projections by the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation [JCT], which had estimated the tax would raise $50 million in the last three months of fiscal year 2010 and $200 million for the full 2011 fiscal year.
Once the IRS gets its act together, the tanning tax might collect what the JCT estimated it would. It is too soon to tell for sure. It should not be forgotten, however, that one of the motivations for this tax was to discourage Americans from tanning. So a built-in feature for the proponents of the tax would be revenues coming up short, because that would mean fewer people were tanning. If the tanning tax is successful in this regard, it will also mean that the claims that Obamacare wouldn’t add to the deficit are even more specious than they already are.
The difficulty the IRS is having collecting the tanning tax is a worrying harbinger of more trouble to come for Obamacare. Besides collecting all the taxes Obamacare increased, the IRS has to determine if all 300 million Americans have health insurance approved by the Department of Health and Human Services—every month! If the IRS has so much trouble collecting a simple excise tax from a few thousand businesses, how is it going to achieve the exponentially more daunting task of determining if every citizen has government-approved health insurance 12 times a year?
The answer will undoubtedly be a heap of more regulations and a mountain of new bureaucratic forms—especially for businesses already drowning under a tidal wave of regulations and tax forms. Bigger government, which Obamacare undoubtedly represents, requires the government to be more intrusive and impose more costs and more burdens on people and businesses to comply with its many mandates.
Just as President Obama turns his attention to job creation after almost three years in office with an unacceptably high unemployment rate, his signature legislative achievement is promising to burden businesses with new costs they can ill afford. The timing couldn’t be worse for the President, the economy, and those out-of-work Americans searching for a job.