Consumers and beauty industry insiders alike are enraged at what they believe to be a preposterous move by a party-list solon to impose a “vanity tax” on beauty products and cosmetic services.
Ako Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe is proposing a 10 to 30 percent excise tax not just on makeup, but also on aesthetic services like liposuction, skin whitening and similar products. His stance is that this move is pro-poor, and is a better alternative to imposing additional taxes on fuel and petroleum products.
Batocabe said only those who pay for beauty services, who are presumably rich, will be affected by the added tax.
Netizens have voiced their opposition, with some saying the solon’s views are unfair and myopic. A trending hashtag now is #donttaxmybeauty.
“Tax is supposed to be equitable. You don’t tax women’s needs just because your misogyny feels they are for vanity,” tweeted @MoxieLi.
“I refuse to let my makeup fund your misplaced ideals for my country and your insatiable thirst for bloodshed,” wrote @ElliceCenteno.
“#DontTaxMyBeauty because even though I don’t agree with how Mocha Uson uses eyeliner like it’s a Sharpie, I will defend her right to do it,” tweeted @GothTita.
“A society that shames women for how they look without makeup now wants to punish them financially,” wrote @kirishiimas.
@lizzytimbreza: “This isn’t ‘just about makeup.’ It’s but a small reflection of a system that impacts women disproportionately.”
Here are what beauty industry insiders have to say:
Dr. Aivee Aguilar-Teo, medical director, The Aivee Group
Being in the beauty industry, I think putting a heavy tax on beauty services should be strongly reconsidered. There are many other industries in the country that are detrimental to the fabric of society and cause society ills, which can be taxed more heavily. The beauty industry is not one of those.
Barbi Chan Friebel, makeup artist, beauty minister at BDJ Box, and managing director of Dermal Facial Mask Phils.
For someone like me who is a consumer and at the same time a proponent for women empowerment through the use of makeup, I am appalled, at a loss, and dismayed as to why this country is slowly going backward. Beauty products and treatments are grossly misunderstood! Some may misconstrue them as being for vanity, but what about women who use it to empower themselves after suffering from abuse, diseases and disability?
Myrrh Lao To, fashion stylist
It is unnecessary and, quite frankly, nonsense. These “beauty” products are essential to a lot of Filipinos, especially to those who work in industries where appearance is important, which is, I think, every industry you can possibly think of. Why can’t we just increase taxes for liquor and tobacco instead?
Cindy Go, beauty editor, L’Officiel Manila
I think if they do push through with this, people will be discouraged from buying in actual stores. They’ll opt to buy online or abroad. I feel bad for the legit businesses. And the Instagram and online resellers are not registered as businesses, so their prices will be more competitive. People would rather buy from them if this happens. Some may even be selling fake products.
Monika Ravanera, fashion stylist
Are you serious? Hindi siya nakakaganda. Paano na ang red lipstick? Baka maging pale na lang. Beauty products and services are my simple (but not cheap) pleasures. They’re my way of de-stressing. And vanity tax means additional burden for the beauty consumers. I protest! Double whammy na ’yan. Tataas na nga ang presyo ng gasolina, ita-tax pa ang lipstick! No! Galingan n’yo naman, Congress. Ayan, nabali tuloy ang lipstick ko! I don’t agree that it’s luxury. Minimum wage earners, like the salesladies, are required to wear makeup. When I worked at a department store, the salesladies were among our customers.
Lourd Ryan Ramos, makeup artist and salon chain owner/creative director
I won’t be able to buy my favorite beauty products. My clients will suffer. Why don’t they check the pork barrel and the government projects that have been there forever and are taking forever to finish?
Audra Lucero-Garcia, marketing director, Hairministry Inc.
There is a need to recognize beauty products and services as a sector that employs so many people. There are people and families behind all these products and services. This tax will penalize small and medium enterprises more than anything else. The desire of this administration appears to be to lower the unemployment rate, and the services industry has the biggest potential for doing that. I hope that is taken into consideration, and the argument is not simply and disingenuously presented as a luxury tax over a utility tax.
The equivalent of taxing fuel and petroleum, a utility, should be taxing communications, like internet services and such. The equivalent of taxing services and products should be something like taxing hygiene products. It isn’t essential to life to be clean and presentable, but it is preferable to society if you are.
Peewee Reyes-Isidro, editor in chief, Mega Magazine
I feel the proposed vanity tax is unnecessary. Like any other industry, the beauty industry is a business. This move will affect a lot of people, especially the ones employed by these brands or establishments. More so the consumers whose livelihood depends on it. More importantly, the idea that “women should pay more to look beautiful” is absurd and goes against their rights. Ultimately, beauty should be accessible.
A vanity tax in lieu of an oil price hike is not the solution. Government should find other ways to raise public funds. If at all, a comprehensive tax reform is what this country needs.
Criscy Camacho, marketing director, Mary Kay Phils.
Regardless of market changes or trends, we at Mary Kay remain committed to giving our independent beauty consultants and customers the best products and services at the right prices. Enhancing one’s beauty goes beyond physical benefits. It boosts confidence and self-esteem for a majority of women.
George Siy, president and CEO, Marie France Phils.
We will all contribute our share but we need a balance between industries, and need to be competitive between countries for an industry. Very important is how effectively the tax moneys are being invested for the people, as we are not monitoring this. While we can see infrastructure improvements under Duterte, in the past and, likely in the future, practically all levies did not serve their purpose. The road tax, coconut levy, flood tax, airport tax, travel tax—what improvements in any of the industries went to improve the industry? So it depends on how much each industry is to be taxed and for what results.
We will contribute to development costs, but it must be studied as a system, not in pieces. The most well-run countries now have the lowest taxes.
Em Millan, fashion stylist
I think even before considering taxing any additional goods or services, our government should fix tax collection issues first, and then where it’s spent. Also, the vanity tax money is supposed to fund what sector of the country again?
Charmagne Garcia-Laconico, beauty expert and personality development consultant
Beauty products or makeup may seem like capricho to others—obviously to Rep. Batocabe!—but in the corporate setting and majority of women-populated industries, it is something of a requirement. This will be another tax to the already burdened worker. When one looks good, performance level is better. When we look good, we feel good, and we perform better in our own fields.