Angie Mayer has plenty of questions about the tax on indoor tanning that’s set to start on July 1, but it isn’t likely she and other tanning business owners will get answers anytime soon.

Angie Mayer has plenty of questions about the tax on indoor tanning that’s set to start on July 1, but it isn’t likely she and other tanning business owners will get answers anytime soon.

In a last-minute deal during the final wrangling of the health care reform bill, federal lawmakers approved a 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services. It’s left the Internal Revenue Service scrambling to start collecting the money and business owners worried the tax will burn customers during an already limp economy.

“(The tax) is really going to hurt us even more so, and it’s already been a tough time the last few years,” said Mayer, who owns Bronzed Image tanning’s five locations in Wisconsin and northern Illinois. “I feel like our voices weren’t heard when they approved this thing. They already had in mind that it was going to generate all this money, and that’s all they cared about.”

The tanning tax’s last-minute approval is an example of how not to write tax policy, said John Overstreet, executive director of the Indoor Tanning Association in Washington, D.C. The tanning tax replaced a proposed tax on Botox and elective cosmetic procedures.

Federal officials estimate that the tax will generate about $2.7 billion during the next decade, but Overstreet’s group said the estimate is “grossly exaggerated,” especially because people have cut back on tanning services during the recession.

“People tan before they go on vacation, and people have cut back on trips and fun money,” he said. “People tan to look good and feel good, but when you’re worried about putting food on the table, or paying for gas or rent, tanning is unfortunately a cuttable area.

“This industry took a disproportionate hit with this decision.”

Industry officials say the tax unfairly targets the small and mostly female-owned businesses, and comes after an earlier hit this year, when recommended restrictions were made to the Food and Drug Administration regarding teens who tan. The tanning association estimates there are about 18,000 professional indoor tanning facility businesses in the U.S. that cater to about 30 million people.

Overstreet said IRS officials are unsure how to collect the tax because there are so many different kinds of tanning businesses — including health clubs and salons with tanning beds — owned by many different people.

“Nobody has any answers, and that’s what’s frustrating,” Overstreet said.

Mayer thinks many of her customers will still tan despite the tax, but she’s unsure how they will react come summer.

“I think people would understand if there were more across-the-board changes to the beauty industry as a whole,” Mayer said. “This is going to be another challenge I was not wanting to face.”

Reach Rockford Register Star staff writer Melissa Westphal at mwestpha@rrstar.com or 815-987-1341.