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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s tax reform task force has agreed to exempt veterinary services from taxation, the Utah Veterinary Medical Association announced this week, withdrawing one of the more controversial proposals from an in-progress bill to change the state’s tax structure.
The bill would have taxed all non-emergency veterinary procedures at 4.85% and was opposed by many state vets and veterinary organizations.
Pet grooming, boarding and day care are still in line to be taxed, but the bill will no longer tax procedures like spaying, neutering, dental work, vaccination and preventative care. Utah veterinarian Dr. Nathan Whiting, who publicly spoke against the measure, said the decision is a victory for Utah pet owners.
“It’s going to keep their costs lower for some essential services,” Whiting said. “And it’s a good thing for us (veterinarians), because we don’t have to necessarily act like the tax collector.”
Whiting said he understands the Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force is in a difficult position in choosing which industries to tax. “No matter what they do, there’s going to be somebody that’s really, really upset,” he said. “We appreciate their willingness to work with us and come to a resolution.”
Dr. Jamie Griffith, president of the Utah Veterinary Medical Association, said she’s “grateful” for the exemption. “I do believe they heard from a lot of our pet parents and families,” Griffith said, “and they listen to that voice.”
Griffith announced the decision in a Tuesday email to Veterinary Medical Association members. “We know that this will still create a burden on our pet and veterinary families,” she said of the compromise, “but are grateful to the legislators for exempting the preventative and lifesaving medical procedures and treatments of veterinary medicine.”
She thanked the tax reform task force members for adjusting the legislation.
When asked to confirm the change, Utah House Majority Leader Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, provided KSL.com a copy of Griffith’s statement. Gibson is co-chairman of the Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force.
The tax reform bill seeks to lower the state’s income tax rate and broaden the base of taxable services as the economy transitions away from traditional goods. Many services, like portrait photography, yoga classes and golf lessons, had previously been removed from consideration for taxation.
Other industries, like ride-hailing services and streaming media, are still on the hook. The bill would also raise taxes on some groceries and gasoline.
The task force’s next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 21. Lawmakers may call a December special session to address the bill; the 2020 general session begins on Jan. 27.