Thursday
Apr142016

IHRSA Launches Tax Weekend Challenge to Support Incentives for Physical Activity

Today, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) launched the IHRSA Tax Weekend Challenge to increase support for two bills in Congress designed to use the tax code to encourage exercise: the PHIT Act (the Personal Health Investment Today Act, H.R. 1218 / S. 2218) and the WHIP Act (the Workforce Health Improvement Program Act, S. 2296). The campaign was launched to coincide with the federal tax filing deadline, which for most Americans is April 18, 2016; filers in Maine and Massachusetts have an April 19 deadline.

IHRSA encourages the fitness industry to voice its support for these two pieces of legislation that would make physical activity more affordable and accessible for all Americans by sending an electronic letter to their elected officials.

“Legislation like PHIT and WHIP form the gateway that leads to a healthier nation. Passing these bills would advance opportunities to make fitness all-inclusive, regardless of an individual’s financial standing or access to the amenities provided by health clubs,” said Helen Durkin, Executive Vice President of Public Policy at IHRSA.

The PHIT Act would allow citizens to use flexible savings accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) to pay for health club memberships and other fitness expenditures such as fitness equipment, exercise videos, and youth sports league fees. Individuals would be able to use $1,000 pre-tax for these expenses and families would be granted up to $2,000. Under the existing law, pre-tax medical accounts can only be used for expenses like prescriptions and doctor’s visits.

The WHIP Act would prevent employees who are offered employer subsidized health club membership from paying a tax on the benefit. Current law imposes the income tax on the value of the membership, unless the fitness center is located on-site. Its passage would renew opportunities for engagement and new membership, as 82% of Americans say that they would exercise regularly if their employer subsidized a health club membership.

Passing these two pieces of legislation would not only help guarantee that Americans have access to the resources that allow them to be physically active, but their passage would also be beneficial for combating rising healthcare costs.

Currently, 75% of national public and private healthcare expenditures are used to diagnose and treat chronic diseases connected to rising obesity rates and inadequate levels of physical activity. And on top of that, businesses lose $15 billion annually to cover the cost of worker health insurance and absenteeism.

Reversing this trend starts with getting people more physically active. Statistics have shown that every $1.00 spent on encouraging physical activity results in $3.20 in medical cost savings, and that is why IHRSA is urging the industry to take action.

IHRSA’s goal is to send 1,000 messages of support to Washington D.C., emphasizing the importance of and the benefits associated with creating and maintaining healthy lifestyles. To send your message, please visit votervoice.net/IHRSA/campaigns/44403/respond.

Additionally, IHRSA would like to thank the sponsors of PHIT and WHIP. We appreciate the efforts of Senator John Thune of South Dakota (PHIT), Congressman Charles Boustany of Louisiana (PHIT) and Senator John Cornyn of Texas (WHIP). Their unwavering commitment to advancing legislation that promotes healthy behaviors demonstrates their loyalty in helping us secure the future health of this country.

About IHRSA

The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association is the not-for-profit trade association representing health and fitness facilities, gyms, spas, sports clubs, and suppliers worldwide. IHRSA and its members are dedicated to making the world healthier through regular exercise and activity promotion. IHRSA’s mission is to grow, promote and protect the industry; and provide its members with benefits that will help them be more successful. For additional information on IHRSA’s public policy, advocacy, and government relations efforts, please contact gr@ihrsa.org