BOSTON, MA—May 17, 2019—What do lawmakers do when they want to discourage smoking or drinking too much sugar? They tax those products.

So, why would these lawmakers do the same to healthy lifestyles when the country is dealing with:

  • chronic illness,
  • lack of access to places to exercise, and
  • rampant obesity.

Instead, IHRSA, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, believes policymakers should encourage or increase access to physical activity, which improves health, helps bring down the cost of healthcare, and bolsters our national and local economies.

“Policymakers who seek to tax physical activity are ignoring the high cost of physical inactivity,” says Jeff Perkins, IHRSA’s assistant vice president of government relations. “People who exercise regularly are significantly less likely to suffer from obesity-related and other chronic diseases, incur fewer healthcare costs, are less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, and are more productive employees with lower rates of sick leave and absenteeism.”

IHRSA’s Government Relations team tracks, alerts, and acts on all types of legislation affecting the industry. Unfortunately, IHRSA is seeing an increasing number of states look to taxes on club memberships as new revenue streams, even from traditionally low-tax and business-friendly states.

Currently, 25 states and the District of Columbia tax health club memberships, and since 2017, 11 additional states have considered applying or expanding a sales tax to health club memberships or services.

So, what’s a club to do?

Do clubs and their communities have any say about a sales tax on dues?

“Actually, yes,” Perkins says. “Club operators and their staff are in the perfect position to educate their lawmakers about the health and economic benefits of exercise, and how important their services are to the community.”

To help its member clubs across the country understand and act on the efforts needed to stop a sales tax from being implemented, IHRSA has released A Guide to Fighting a Sales, Service, or Amusement Tax on Health Club Membership, which is free to IHRSA members.

In the guide, IHRSA advises that there's no time to waste before contacting your state representatives if lawmakers introduce legislation that would impose or increase a sales tax on health club dues or services. In doing so, you can increase the likelihood that in the future your government will help—rather than hinder—the profitability of your club and the health of your community.

The guide breaks down the most critical steps of stopping a sales tax proposal:

  • including member and staff education, and mobilization,
  • building alliances,
  • leveraging local media and social media, and
  • working with the IHRSA team directly on campaigns to stop the legislation when warranted.

Perkins adds, “Club operators are our eyes and ears on the ground, so if you hear of a sales tax proposal arising, contact IHRSA immediately. The sooner IHRSA knows of a proposed sales tax, the sooner we can begin educating lawmakers, through ILC funded lobbyists and online letter-writing campaigns.”

IHRSA members are invited to download the Guide to Fighting a Sales, Service, or Amusement Tax on Health Club Membership from the IHRSA website.


The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) is a 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 maintains a leadership role in advancing physical activity, which is critical to America’s health and the battle against obesity and chronic lifestyle disease. IHRSA supports policies that promote more active lifestyles to foster a healthier, happier more prosperous America, and protects health clubs from the legislative and legal issues that could affect daily business operations.