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Protesters: Nail Salon Sales Tax Discriminates Against Korean-Americans


March 26, 2012

As soon as manicures, pedicures, waxing and facials began to be taxed at 6.35 percent in July, owners and managers of nail salons started to see fewer customer visits, and lower tipping.

Customer visits have fallen by about 15 percent, salon owners said Monday, as about 75 nail salon owners, managers and employees gathered at the state Capitol to ask legislators to exempt these services from the sales tax.

Typically, salons charge about $35 to $45 for a combined manicure-pedicure. The tax on a $40 service would be $2.51.

The change was part of a larger legislative push that expanded what is covered by the sales tax increased the tax by 0.35 percentage points, from 6 percent.

Salon owners say the tax amounts to discrimination against korean-Americans or people of Korean descent, who, they say, own 90 percent of the salons in Connecticut.

Sanda Chun, an owner of a nail salon in Darien, said the owners did not lobby against the sales tax expansion last summer because they didn't know it was coming.

"A lot of them work six to seven days a week," she said.

The nail business committee of the Korean-American Society only got organized once they saw how the tax was reducing customer traffic.

Protestors agreed that no one gets rich owning a salon. "We try to make a living and send our kids to school," Chun said.

Chun's daughter,, Sheila Chun, took a day off from her job as a corporate attorney in New York to support her mother's cause. Sheila grew up in Wilton. Owners of salons in Greenwich, Darien, Clinton, New Haven, Avon, Hartford, Danbury, Westport, Fairfield, Shelton and Hamden attended the protest.

The society says the fact that haircuts, dye jobs and massages are not taxable, but manicures, pedicures, facials and waxing are, is discrimination against Korean-Americans.

"We do not believe this item is a luxury item at all," Sandra Chun said. Getting your hair highlighted or permed costs significantly more than a mani-pedi, is "an optional thing to do," she said, and yet it is not subject to the sales tax.

The group of owners and workers stood by the Capitol, listening to speeches in Korean, applauding at the end of each, and sometimes telling the speakers "Thank you" in Korean.

Rosa Gomez, a nail technician at Coco in Greenwich, didn't understand the speeches she speaks Spanish and a little English but said after the protest that she came to stand in the cold because of the problem of taxes. She said she thinks there are fewer women coming in since the taxes began.

Sanda Chun said workers like Gomez are getting fewer tips because of the tax. Before the tax, typically women would give the technician $2 or $3 now some aren't tipping at all, she said.

Jay Shin, who manages Coco and another nail salon in Shelton, said it might not seem like $6 on a $100 facial or $2 and change on a manicure may not seem big "but it adds up a lot."

More than 1,000 owners, workers and customers have signed a petition asking the tax be repealed. Sanda Chun said she hopes the legislature will revisit taxing facials, waxing and manicures in this special session.

Legislators overseeing tax rules couldn't be reached Monday. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said he's sympathetic to many of the concerns about last year's $1.5 billion in new taxes, but that hard choices had to be made as part of "shared sacrifice."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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