Healthy living

Tax man targets cosmetic surgery

Cosmetic surgery costs to rise by 20 per cent VAT added to surgery costs

The cost of cosmetic surgery procedures will rise by as much as 20 per cent, as doctors who carry them out will now need to register for Value Added Tax.

Under new VAT guidelines, surgeons who carry out cosmetic surgery purely for cosmetic reasons will need to register and add 20 per cent VAT to their patients' bills.

HMRC guidance states that procedures are only exempt from VAT if the purpose is to 'protect, maintain or restore the health of the person concerned.'

The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) says it agrees that non-surgical cosmetic treatments such as injectables and lasers should be subject to VAT.

However, it said that bundling surgery such as breast reductions, tummy tucks and children's bat-ear operations under one heading is an 'ethical minefield,' and called for more debate on the subject.

It also added the move may encourage patients to risk cheap 'surgery holiday deals' abroad.

Consultant plastic surgeon Douglas McGeorge, a former BAAPS president, said: "Are all children who have their teeth straightened to be taxed? There is certainly no functional need for the vast majority.

"Should prominent ear correction be taxed; an operation performed on young children to prevent them being bullied and developing psychological problems?

"What level of asymmetry or abnormality is required to justify breast surgery? When do large breasts create enough of a physical problem to allow treatment?

"Large noses will kill no one on their own but can create major problems in life that prevent individuals contributing to society and, indeed, have been known to result in self harming.

"At what level is treatment acceptable with drooping eyelids that impair vision and should their treatment be extended to allow harmony in facial features or be restricted to just the immediate problem, perhaps leaving the patient looking odd?

"Our role is to make sure patient needs justify treatment, not VAT exemption."

Consultant plastic surgeon and BAAPS president Fazel Fatah added: "The reasons for undertaking aesthetic plastic surgery vary widely and from patient to patient – the same condition can affect each person in a different way.

"Some may experience side effects, in others it can affect their ability to work, or they could suffer serious psychological impact. It is simply not possible to generalise about the reasons for treatment."

This article was published on Mon 17 October 2011

Image © maska82 -

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