The WHIP Act would make it easier for employers to offer health club memberships to employees. Under current tax law, employers are permitted to deduct the cost of onsite exercise facilities. However, if an employer provides this same benefit at an offsite facility, it cannot take advantage of the tax deduction and employees who use the benefit must pay income tax on the value of the subsidy.
The WHIP Act would eliminate this inequity, allowing for the balanced tax treatment of health club memberships as an employee benefit, 're-affirming employers' right to deduct the cost of providing health club benefits to their workers and exclude the wellness benefit from being considered additional income for employees.
What's going on with WHIP now?
The WHIP Act is currently part of a larger, comprehensive wellness bill, The Healthy Lifestyles and Prevention America Act (HeLP Act), introduced in U.S. Senate on January 22, 2013, by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA).
Join the Campaign
- Write an email or a fax using the Exercise Your Rights online advocacy system. Simply enter your home and business address and the system determines your legislators. Then use the talking points provided to write your own personalized message. It takes about five minutes to write a powerful advocacy message.
- Call your legislators' offices. Follow-up a few days after sending your email or fax. Talking points for your call are available and you can use the Elected Official Directory to look up their office phone numbers. Since legislative offices are very busy, calls generally take about 15 minutes.
- Visit their district offices. All members of Congress have offices located in their home district. While visiting a staff member at this office is a great option, you can try to arrange a meeting with your lawmakers themselves when they are working there during designated district work periods. Since there are no committee hearings or floor votes as they do in DC, they have more time available to meet with constituents.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that healthcare costs directly associated with inactivity exceeded $76 billion in 2000; roughly one-third of those costs ($25 billion) fall directly on the U.S. taxpayer since approximately one in three Americans is covered by a taxpayer-funded health plan.
- Public health experts agree that people who maintain active healthy lifestyles dramatically reduce their risk of contracting chronic diseases, and a physically fit population results in a decrease in healthcare costs and improved worker productivity.
- In 2005, the Joint Committee on Taxation determined that the provisions of the WHIP Act would cost $526 million over a ten year period. This moderate budget estimate stands in stark contrast to the $25 billion in annual healthcare savings the CDC estimates the federal government could achieve if every American adult engaged in regular exercise.
- The WHIP Act alone will not get every American off the couch and moving, but recent polling reveals that 78% of Americans claim that they would exercise more regularly if their employer subsidized a fitness center membership.
- By enacting the WHIP Act, Congress has the opportunity to create the most conducive environment possible for promoting additional workplace fitness programs at companies, both large and small. Given its relatively low cost to high return on investment, the WHIP Act represents a win-win wellness benefit that will put more money back into Americans' pockets while at the same time promoting healthier lifestyles and reducing the national healthcare expenditure.