Cosmetic surgeons to fight VAT plan
Cosmetic surgeons have spoken out against government plans to add VAT to surgical procedures. New guidelines issued to surgeons by HM Revenue and Customs have outlined plans to charge VAT on all surgeries carried out for cosmetic reasons in a move that could raise up to £500m a year for the Treasury. Until now, tax has only been charged on non-surgical procedures such as botox and laser skin rejuvenation, while more invasive cosmetic surgeries have remained exempt. The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) said it understood the need for VAT on non-surgical procedures such as botox and laser skin rejuvenation but objected to a tax on surgery. HMRC guidance to health professions states that services are only exempt of VAT if the purpose is to 'protect, maintain or restore the health of the person concerned'. But BAAPS said this approach failed to recognise the extensive scope and purpose of most plastic surgery procedures and does not provide enough clarification on the psychological impact of treatments. Consultant plastic surgeon and BAAPS president Fazel Fatah said: 'Treatments carried out by plastic surgeons do improve the psychological as well as the physical wellbeing of patients. For many it is impossible to ascertain which aspect is the most important, but, as enshrined in the World Health Authority, psychological wellbeing is just as important as the physical.' Similarly, the British Association of Cosmetic Doctors (BACD), suggested that VAT on surgical procedures could discriminate against patients whose surgery was being carried out for both cosmetic and psychological reasons but was not deemed necessary by the HMRC. BACD president elect Dr Samantha Gammell said: 'We are appalled that HMRC inspectors in Wales are demanding to review confidential patient records for proof of their medical needs. It is an obscene invasion of privacy based on a ridiculous premise that a doctor, having taken on a duty of care, could do otherwise than protect the health of their patient. She added: 'The public should not be put off seeking the help that they need. There is simply no legal basis for the HMRC's approach and we will continue to fight for patients' rights.' BAAPS also expressed concern that increased prices would encourage more consumers to go abroad for cheaper cosmetic surgery, which in turn would place increased pressure on UK doctors who provide aftercare and correction for overseas surgeries every year. Fatah added: 'At the start of the recession, well over a quarter of BAAPS surgeons had already noticed an alarming increase in patients presenting with problems from cut-price surgery deals abroad?.Taxing private plastic surgery in the UK will only aggravate this situation.'