Plastic surgeons in the UK are worried that they may soon have to charge patients a tax on cosmetic surgery, according to WebMD.
Currently in the UK, a plastic surgery tax only exists on non-surgical treatments like Botox, fillers and laser treatments, a fact that plastic surgeons take no issue with. (In the UK, a VAT tax or “Value Added Tax” is somewhat similar to sales tax in the US in that consumers must pay it on top of the price for a good or elective service.)
Lawmakers in the UK, though, may soon examining whether a plastic surgery tax should apply to elective cosmetic surgeries, like breast augmentation. In the US, patients already pay sales tax on elective plastic surgeries, but not medically-necessary procedures, which are often billed through insurance.
Some plastic surgeons in the UK are beginning to speak out against a possible review in the application of VAT, which may cause patients to have to pay a plastic surgery tax when they previously did not need to.
Current laws regarding VAT tax stipulate that procedures are tax exempt when the “protection, maintenance or restoration” of health is the main goal. A handful of plastic surgeons argue that changing any of these tax laws could put many patient’s surgical desires in a gray area.
Former president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons Dr. Douglas McGeorge says the common image of plastic surgery is mega-celebrities casually undergoing elective procedures. Rather, he argues, it is members of the general public who choose plastic surgery to improve small aspects of themselves for a positive result.
McGeorge uses the image of an older worker undergoing facial rejuvenation to help make themselves more competitive in the workplace. He sees the difficulty in distinguishing between what is a functional improvement and what is purely cosmetic.
In response to the worry of some plastic surgeons regarding a new plastic surgery tax, the UK government says they currently have no plans to revise the VAT for cosmetic surgeries.
“Medical treatment for purely aesthetic reasons has been, and continues to be, liable to VAT at the standard rate,” it said in a statement.
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