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Sales Tax on Health Club Dues 


IHRSA Opposes a Tax on Healthy Lifestyles

IHRSA believes that government should encourage regular exercise and healthy lifestyles, not discourage them by taxing club memberships. The states that impose taxes on club dues and services do so despite overwhelming evidence of the economic benefits of exercise.

Policy makers should instead work to encourage physical activity, which improves health, helps bring down the cost of health care, and bolsters our national and local economies. 

Policy makers who tax those who are physically active are ignoring the high cost of physical inactivity. People who exercise regularly are significantly less likely to suffer from obesity-related and other chronic diseases, incur fewer health care costs, are less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, and are more productive employees with lower rates of sick leave and presenteeism.

Exercise isn’t just “Good For You,” it’s the closest thing we have to a miracle drug.

Proponents of taxing health club memberships argue that we can’t exempt everything that is “good for you” from the sales tax, so it’s fine to create a tax on fitness memberships. But exercise isn’t just “good for you", it’s actually the closest thing humans have to a miracle drug. And, notably, we have a physical inactivity crisis on our hands.

For the sake of public health, governments (at every level) should be doing everything in their power to promote physical activity and make it easier (remove barriers) to pursue a healthy lifestyle.

In fact, some tax proposals continue the sales tax exemptions for prescription and non-prescription drugs. Given that exercise is routinely prescribed by physicians, it is illogical and unnecessary to distinguish a fitness membership from a prescription or non-prescription drug.

National Trend

The national trend is toward policies that encourage people to be physically active. Since 2006, 18 states have considered legislation that would make health club memberships more affordable and accessible by providing a tax credit or tax deduction. During that same time period, many states as well as some cities have considered legislation that would tax health club memberships but only one state, New Jersey, passed the tax - in 2006. And Washington DC passed the tax in 2014. Currently, 25 states tax health club memberships.  

What To Do

  • Be proactive. If your state taxes health club memberships - or is proposing to do so - educate your legislators about the economic and health benefits of exercise. Educate your legislators about how clubs improve the physical and economic health of communities, so that, when a proposal to tax membership dues arises, they'll be prepared to oppose it (or repeal it).
  • IHRSA talking points to guide you in your communication efforts with your elected officials. Email gr@ihrsa.org.
  • Educating lawmakers on the short-sightedness of a sales tax is costly. Contributions -- of any amount -- are used to support IHRSA's efforts to protect club operations from taxes and harmful legislation. Download a pledge form or visit ihrsa.org/pledge to support IHRSA's efforts.
  • Join the Industry Leadership Council, a group of concerned industry operators who contribute their time, expertise and funds to support IHRSA's advcacy efforts.

IHRSA Member Comments

"When New York State attempted to pass a 6% sales tax on club membership dues a few years back, IHRSA saved the day. Their assistance was crucial in defeating the bill. As a small club owner/operator it can be really scary and upsetting to see a misguided state legislature look at the fitness industry as a source for increasing tax revenues without input from anyone. IHRSA rallied club owners across the state to lobby and defeat the bill. It was a truly wonderful and gratifying result, and a great lesson in the value that IHRSA brings to our industry. I can't think of a better investment that a club owner can make by contributing to the ILC for the health and well-being of our industry, and more importantly, our businesses."

~Rick Beusman, Saw Mill Sports Management  

"I am not sure words can truly express the impact that IHRSA has. We have estimated that, for example, if a bill on taxation got passed, it could cost our clubs hundreds of thousands of dollars and would create another barrier for people to join. If a tax would do that to my clubs, imagine if you added up that cost for every club. It’s probably billions." 

~ Mark Miller, Merritt Clubs