January 22, 2013

Exercising Can Be Taxing

You know all those excuses you give about why you do not get to the gym? Not enough time, you are too tired, you are having too good of a hair day — I have heard them all. But like it or not, this year you could have one less (actually valid) excuse.

Missouri Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Dist. 133) wants to make personal training and fitness classes less expensive for Missourians. Last week, he filed a bill to exempt fitness and yoga from a state entertainment tax.

At first I thought, gee, this is great news for all those gym-goers and yogis out there (myself included). But there is actually a fundamental drawback to this bill.

Let’s start with the good. The positive aspect is that Burlison is trying to un-do the damage caused by too widely interpreting an entertainment tax to include fitness and yoga classes, which if you have ever attended a boot camp class, you know it is far from entertaining.

The negative aspect is that the bill encourages tax exemptions for certain types of businesses. This gives an advantage to some types of businesses over others. Just because the tax is removed, it does not necessarily mean gym memberships will be less expensive. Gyms and yoga studios could very well just keep the extra profits, and patrons will not receive any of the benefit. Missourians would benefit more from tax reform that seeks to lower taxes on all and broaden the base.

So, on the one hand, yes, it would be great for fitness to be a little more affordable for Missourians. But we cannot ignore the fact that this unfairly favors some types of businesses over others, and does not guarantee cheaper fitness for anyone.

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