Congress is preparing to take action on a bipartisan proposal to raise taxes on flu vaccines. This is not a tax on the wealthy, but rather on a broad swath of Americans, or at least those who choose to be immunized against the flu.
In February, identical bills were introduced in the House and Senate to add seasonal flu vaccines to the IRS code as taxable. The legislation would exact a 75¢ per dose tax on any “vaccine against seasonal influenza.” Given that the Centers for Disease Control projects that 135 million doses of flu vaccine will be used this year, the government’s take on flu vaccines alone is over $100,000,000 per year.
Along with taxes on other vaccines, this tax would fund the Vaccine Injury Compensation Trust Fund. The fund is a “no-fault alternative to the traditional tort system for resolving vaccine injury claims that provides compensation to people found to be injured by certain vaccines.” However, the fund is by no means in the same kind of trouble that other government “trust funds” are.
The balance in the fund (as of November 2012) was more than $3.5 billion. Since the program’s inception in 1988, the fund has paid out only $2.5 billion in 25 years for cases involving all vaccines, not just the flu vaccine. This means the balance in the fund could conceivably last another 25 years with no further tax revenue.
Why not tax the tax?