by Sarah Curry, The John Locke Foundation, June 11, 2015.
Yesterday the Senate proposed a new tax plan. Amongst a number of tax changes, one of the ones that stuck out to me was the imposition of sales tax on veterinary services and pet care services.
Here is the expected fiscal impact of the change:
To me this is a double-edged sword. From a policy standpoint it is best to broaden the sales tax base and not exclude anything from the tax. But when I look at the Senate’s tax plan, there are still industries exempt from charging sales tax. What about attorney and human medical services? Why single out veterinary services and not charge sales tax to all services?
Lawmakers need to be careful if they want to start charging sales tax on veterinary services. As modern human medicine has advanced, the use of animals has become a key part to help aid certain medical conditions.
For example, Equine assisted therapy offers kids with emotional and behavioral issues a safe environment in which to work through issues of fear, anxiety, self-doubt, and poor communication. Dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, rats, horses, donkeys, llamas, alpacas, pot-bellied pigs and birds can all be used as therapy animals and they visit hospitals, special needs centers, schools, and nursing homes. Dogs are used to help people that suffer from epilepsy and have seizures. There are even programs for veterans that have physical and mental health challenges use canine therapy to help them live a better life.
We don’t charge sales tax on prescriptions or human medical care, but if a child has a seizure dog – isn’t that a form of medical care?
Another factor is the problem with pet owners not vaccinating their pets against rabies. If we start charging sales tax on that vaccine, will that cause some pet owners not to vaccinate and in turn cause a public health issue? What about the problem of overcrowded animal shelters? If we increase the cost of veterinary care and services, that will effect spay and neuter clinics and animal rescue groups. That could possibly cause less animals to be cared for and an increased cost to counties at their shelters.
Again, I support broadening the sales tax base and not having loopholes in our tax code for certain industries. But as long as there are loopholes and certain industries are being excluded – why impose a sales tax on veterinary care and not other services?