By Tim Montgomerie
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The splash in this morning's Mail on Sunday is the news that the Treasury hopes to raise £500 million every year by enforcing the imposition of VAT on all non-therapeutic forms of cosmetic surgery. The move, says the newspaper, could add £1,000 to the cost of an average breast enhancement operation. The VAT won't be applied if the cosmetic surgeon decides that the treatment is necessary for the patient's health rather than their beauty.
The Treasury is desperate for revenue and believes that the booming cosmetic surgery industry – now thought to be worth £2.3 billion in Britain – is a juicy target.
Draft guidance issued by HMRC warns that "cosmetic services which are performed mainly for beautification or rejuvenation purposes, or done out of the individual’s free choice rather than out of medical necessity, are liable to VAT at the standard rate. Such services may include: face lifts, tummy tucks, female breast enlargement, liposuction, hair and tattoo removal using lasers and intense pulse light source machines."
Surgeons complain that the distinction between treatments for health and beauty will greatly complicate their relations with patients.