Government ends ‘perverse anomaly’ of lower VAT rate on sunbeds than on sunscreens

A welcome end to ‘perverse anomaly’ of lower VAT rate on sunbeds, which cause skin cancer, compared to sunscreens, which help to prevent it. Next step – a complete ban!

Skin cancer in Ireland
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland. Yet, in most cases, it is one of the most preventable forms of cancer. For the majority of people, the health risks are related to overexposure to UV radiation from the sun. However, many people deliberately expose themselves to high levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from artificial sources (e.g. sunbeds), which also increase their skin cancer risk.

Budget 2018
In an amendment to the VAT consolidation Act 2010, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe announced that the VAT rate applicable to services offered by sunbed salons will rise from 13.5% to 23%.

VAT legislation distinguishes between ‘goods’ such as sunscreen, and ‘services’ such as access to sunbeds. This very welcome budgetary change will remedy the bizarre discrepancy where sunbed sessions were liable to VAT at the reduced rate of 13.5% because they were considered a service consisting of the care of the human body (alongside health studios, yoga etc.), while the standard 23% VAT rate applies to sunscreens.

According to Minister Donohoe, ‘This is in recognition of the clear evidence of a link between sunbeds and skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in Ireland’.

No safe limit for exposure to UV from sunbeds
The World Health Organization classifies ‘UV emitting tanning devices’ as carcinogenic (having the potential to cause cancer) to humans, and recommends avoidance of sunbeds and tanning parlours.

Furthermore, a recent report published in November 2016 by the European Commission and its independent Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER) concluded that there is no safe limit for exposure to UV radiation from sunbeds. The evidence indicates that UV radiation from sunbeds causes skin cancer (both melanoma and non-melanoma), and may also cause a form of eye cancer (ocular melanoma).

Ban the tan
A ban on the use of sunbeds by under 18’s was introduced into Irish Law in July 2014. However, the Irish Skin Foundation advocates the introduction of an outright ban, and made a submission to the Oireachtas Future of Healthcare Committee in August 2016 recommending that sunbeds should be banned, completely, for public and private use. Hopefully, Ireland will follow Australia and Brazil’s lead to outlaw sunbeds, which cause skin cancer when used exactly as intended.

Sunbed tax
The introduction of the new higher VAT rate on sunbeds is another important step towards reducing the availability of harmful UV radiation sources. We would like to acknowledge and thank the Irish Cancer Society who initiated the call for an increase in VAT rate on sunbeds in their Budget 2018 campaign.


We want everyone in Ireland to learn to Protect & Inspect their skin! Download our short guide, written with hospital-based dermatologists, to checking your skin.   

Melanoma is on the rise in Ireland: see the facts in these info-graphics – Melanoma Skin Cancer and Solar UV Radiation

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