So, what can a health club owner, employee, or member do to stop a proposed sales tax?
You are the perfect person to educate your lawmakers about the health and economic benefits of exercise, and how important your business is to the community. If legislation is introduced in your state that would impose or increase a sales tax on health club dues or services—even if there’s just a hint or a rumor of a proposal—start contacting your state representatives. 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.
Step 1: Contact IHRSA
We do all we can to predict when and where sales tax proposals will happen and to track legislation as it is introduced, but word of a tax proposal often gets around before it is introduced as legislation—which is when IHRSA’s tracking system would pick it up. You are our eyes and ears on the ground, so if you hear of a sales tax proposal arising, email IHRSA immediately so we can start influencing policymakers in your area.
The sooner we know of a proposed sales tax, the sooner we can work with lobbyists—funded in part by the Industry Leadership Council—in battleground states, or create grassroots campaigns to help you, your staff, and your community take your message to your lawmakers. Something we can only do if alerted in time.
Step 2: Educate Your Staff
Make sure your staff is well-versed on the issue, how it will hurt sales, retention, and your community’s health. Your staff needs to have appropriate talking points before you alert your membership.
Step 3: Mobilize Your Members
Your members are your strongest, most vocal advocates. Get them involved. Since they are already investing in their health and believe in the benefits of regular exercise, they are more likely to speak out against a tax on wellness. Statistically, health club members are more likely to be politically active, use that to your business’ advantage and encourage them to talk to their legislators.
Step 4: Build Alliances
Remember, you’re not in this alone. Defeating a sales tax legislation would benefit health clubs all over your state. If you have contacts at other clubs—including boutique fitness studios and other fitness and wellness businesses that may be impacted by the tax—put those connections to work. If you don’t have any contacts, now is the time to develop them. So as soon as a tax proposal is confirmed, you can work as allies in this fight. Our team at IHRSA will help rally clubs across the state to oppose harmful legislation.
Step 5: Leverage Local Media and Social Media
Engage your local and statewide media outlets to spread the message about how a sales tax on health club services would detrimentally impact the health, happiness, and prosperity of your state. You can also create a social campaign, a hashtag, or host an event to help build awareness of your campaign and garner support. The goal is to demonstrate to lawmakers your club’s commitment to fighting for healthy lifestyles and reducing obesity and chronic disease leading to lower health care costs.
This doesn’t require a large budget either, there are several easy and cost-effective ways to spread your message including sending news releases to newspaper and magazine editors or radio station and local news channel producers. You can also submit letters to the editor or op-eds sharing the importance of healthy lifestyles and incentives for exercise. Typically, state legislatures have one or a few publications widely read by lawmakers and their staff. Keep it simple and check length requirements.