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Cosmetic Surgery Cost in the UK to Rise 20 Percent

By Stephanie Guler - Senior Content & Social Media Developer | October 21st, 2011

Elective cosmetic surgery may be more popular than ever, and in the UK, patients will soon see an increase in price thanks to HM Revenue and Customs’ recommendation for an added 20 percent VAT (value added tax) charge.

According to the UK’s HM Revenue and Customs, VAT is a tax that’s charged on most business transactions in the UK. Businesses are required to register for VAT if they make a certain amount of money, and this tax is paid directly by the consumer.

As the government sees it, with the rising success of plastic surgery in the UK (as it’s worth an estimated $3.6 billion each year), must come taxes.

Currently, non-surgical cosmetic and skin care procedures like Botox, dermal fillers, lasers and chemical peels are already subject to VAT, but soon, cosmetic operations like breast implants, tummy tucks and liposuction may also be included.

The tax increase would hike up the cost of breast augmentation, for example, about $1,600.

The only exemption to the tax would be for patients and plastic surgeons that can prove the surgery is being performed for strictly medical reasons.

HM Revenue and Customs stated in their guidelines, “The mere fact that a cosmetic treatment may make a patient feel more confident about their appearance is not in itself sufficient to make the treatment exempt.”

This fact alone has caused quite a bit of controversy amongst patients and doctors within the plastic surgery community.

As reported by the Telegraph, the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) president Dr. Fazel Fatah stated, “The subjective proposals being put forward by HMRC will potentially harm large numbers of patients. They imply that, by definition, any procedure that corrects appearance rather than function is not a medical need. There has been no meaningful discussion with the professional bodies involved.”

The BAAPS statement, released on October 17th, called the VAT on plastic surgery an “ethical minefield”, saying that cosmetic surgeries like breast reductions, tummy tucks, and ear pinning (otoplasty) for children shouldn’t be included.

Their statement claimed this tax initiative “endangers patient confidentiality, leaves the public vulnerable to arbitrary postcode lotteries, and will encourage risky ‘surgery holiday deals’ abroad.”

Members of the BAAPS have encouraged a debate with the government on this touchy subject in order to find a middle ground between maintaining a certain level of quality patient care, and of course, inevitable taxes.

Former BAAPS president and consultant plastic surgeon Dr. Douglas McGeorge addressed the ethical issues of this tax saying, “Should prominent ear correction be taxed; an operation performed on young children to prevent them from 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?”

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

It’s clear that there are some serious issues that need to be resolved here, and consequently, a similar situation also occurred recently in the United States.

The Daily Mail reported, “The five percent levy proposal reached the Senate but was just as quickly dismissed by legislators, spooked by the extent of the public outcry in middle America, where aesthetic surgery and cosmetic procedures are considered as routine as a visit to the dentist.”

As many plastic surgeons in the UK may fear, these taxes on plastic surgery could be fueling the booming medical tourism industry.

One of the main reasons American and British patients travel abroad for plastic surgery is affordability, and even though some experts may warn against it, the quality of medical tourism has greatly improved over the past few years.

Popular destinations for plastic surgery like Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Turkey, Italy, United Arab Emirates, and even Philippines and Malaysia have invested millions of dollars into their health care sectors. This has created a unique service geared especially towards foreign patients; board certified doctors, accredited hospitals, and very affordable prices in beautiful vacation settings.

The key to a safe and successful plastic surgery vacation is research, research, research.

Patients are advised to double check a surgeon’s credentials, surgery portfolio, patient reviews, and any disciplinary actions against them, long before booking a consultation.

Although the costs of cosmetic surgery might be rising in the UK, patients do have another option, if they are willing to travel, that is.

To learn more about plastic surgery procedures and costs, contact a plastic surgeon near you.

Image courtesy of Corbis

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