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Thursday
Jun052014

Hey, Tax Foundation, drop and give us 30

Note: On May 30th, 2014, the Tax Foundation accused an IHRSA member of spreading “half truths” about the sales tax proposal in Washington, DC. Our response is below. If you don’t have time to read the whole post, just know that gym justice has been served (like when the guy who never wipes down the equipment gets stuck on a Spinning bike that doesn’t work)

A hyperbolic attack of truthiness and spin? No, not you, Tax Foundation! Please? You are supposed to be one of the good guys; a voice of reason and facts. We want to believe in you, Tax Foundation.  You’re better than that. We’re not mad, just disappointed. We probably would have let it go, but you picked on a small IHRSA member, so now you gotta mess with us.

You published a blog post titled, “Vida Fitness Spreads Half-Truths about DC Tax Cut Bill.”

At issue is the tax proposal that would, among other things, create a 5.75% sales tax on health club memberships. 

A lot of people are not happy about a tax that increases the cost of trying to live a healthier lifestyle. To many, it seems like the exact opposite of what a government should do when its population is experiencing catastrophic rates of obesity and chronic disease. It’s pretty easy to get people to nod in agreement on this point. 

But you are not nodding, Tax Foundation. 

In fact, you have gone bonkers. 

Here is the paragraph you labeled a “hysterical warning” that spreads half-truths: 

Dear VIDA Members, Yesterday, during an initial vote, the DC Council voted to implement a 5.75% sales tax on health club memberships. The announcement of the vote came with less than 18 hours notice and on the heels of Washington, DC being named the fittest city in America. VIDA plans to lobby against the fitness tax as we do not believe DC residents should be monetarily penalized for being healthy. The fitness tax would result in an increased cost to fitness-related services across the board. VIDA Fitness was founded with the goal of giving DC residents a superior fitness experience that they could use to create a healthier lifestyle for themselves. A healthier population means lower costs for everyone.

That’s a “hysterical warning”…? Your office is in DC, right? You follow politics? That’s about as “hysterical” as a NPR fund drive. 

As for the half-truths…

What exactly is a “half-truth?” Is it a half lie? Are you calling Vida a liar, Tax Foundation? Of course, not. You’re better than that. 

Is a “half-truth” any assertion with a point of view, opinion, or perspective? Jeepers, Tax Foundation, what kind of standard are you setting here? And would it be ok if we analyze your “half-truths” blog post for half-truths (don’t answer that, we already did…why didn’t you mention the fact that applying the sales tax to legal, accounting, and consulting services would raise ginormous amounts of money). 

Let’s analyze that paragraph, sentence by sentence, for half-truths. 

  • Yesterday, during an initial vote, the DC Council voted to implement a 5.75% sales tax on health club memberships. 

Analysis: That happened. Period. Full truth. 

  • The announcement of the vote came with less than 18 hours notice and on the heels of Washington, DC being named the fittest city in America.  

Analysis: Wicked truth (we’re from Boston). In fact, it’s basically ripped from the Washington Post. Are you working on a “Washington Post spreads half truths” article?

  • VIDA plans to lobby against the fitness tax as we do not believe DC residents should be monetarily penalized for being healthy.

Analysis: Oh, it’s on…

  • The fitness tax would result in an increased cost to fitness-related services across the board. 

Analysis: More than half-true

  • VIDA Fitness was founded with the goal of giving DC residents a superior fitness experience that they could use to create a healthier lifestyle for themselves.

Analysis: In Vida, Veritas

  • A healthier population means lower costs for everyone.

Analysis: Hopefully this includes Whole Foods shoppers, too!

All in all, those are six, pretty rock solid sentences, Tax Foundation. 

In your blog post, you also include “some facts that Vida leaves out.” 

Let’s go through those: 

  • The overall tax package is tax cut of $67 million per year, including income tax reductions for many of Vida’s middle- and high-income customers. Vida knows many of their customers will like the tradeoff of sales tax on gym membership in return for lower income taxes, so they leave that part out.

Analysis: How about we just lower the income taxes and not tax health club memberships? I feel like you left that part out, Tax Foundation. 

  • The sales tax expansion proposal has been on the table since February. The budget vote has been anticipated for some time. Vida’s executives should be reading this blog more if they were caught by surprise.

Analysis: The sales tax expansion proposal you reference was not a proposal up for vote in the council. Very half-truthy of you, Tax Foundation…

  • The sales tax is being extended to a number of services, not just gym memberships. The real question for Vida is why they think everyone should have to collect sales tax on their sales except for Vida.

Analysis: Tax Foundation, you are putting thoughts into Vida’s head and then criticizing them for those thoughts. What’s happening over there, Tax Foundation? 

  • The tax on gym membership sales will be the same as the tax on all other sales. This is not a special or higher tax.

Analysis: I guess you could say Vida left this out, but it’s not clear why they would include it. Nobody is suggesting that the sales tax would be higher than other sales tax items. Again, you have some pretty weird standards, Tax Foundation. 

This isn’t easy Tax Foundation. We don’t want to do this, but you leave us with no choice. If you had just come out and said, “we disagree with Vida Fitness” or even had stated that you “strongly supported” the tax on healthy lifestyles, using some kind of pun with the word “strong,” we would have been cool with that. There are different approaches to tax reform and we respect that, even if we think taxing healthy choices like belonging to a gym is a really dumb policy (for the record, we don’t think it’s a great idea to tax DC lawyers, accountants, or consultants either). 

If we were Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post, we would assign you THREE Pinocchios, but since we are IHRSA, we assign you 30 (out of a possible 40) pushups. 

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