If you’re anything like most young professionals in the District, you set aside a nice chunk of your hard-earned cash to cover your monthly gym membership fees– which is just one of the reasons the District’s fitness community is enraged by the D.C. Council’s initial approval of a measure to impose a 5.75% sales tax on local health and fitness clubs.
The proposal was included in a bill aimed at reforming D.C.’s revenue-raising initiatives and cutting income taxes for almost all residents. To cover the cost of the cuts, and to broaden the District’s tax base, the Council voted to extend the sales tax to certain services, including gyms and yoga studios. (D.C.’s sales tax currently applies only to goods, not services.)
According to Council Chairman Phil Mendelson:
“If an individual’s health club membership is $75 per month, the tax will add $4.32 to the cost. On the other hand, the revised income tax (also part of the tax package) will save the average resident taxpayer in the $50,000-$75,000 adjusted gross income bracket about $36.33 per month ($436 per year).” But gym users, owners, trainers and healthcare advocates feel they are being punished for living healthier lives, and in their eyes, that principle overrides the potential tax benefits they could see by 2019. The sales tax proposal also adds a touch of irony to last week’s announcement from the American College of Sports and Medicine that D.C. is the “Fittest City in America.”
Opponents of the “fitness tax” are coming out en masse to protest final passage of the measure, which is scheduled for June 11th. A petition has gained over 1,500 signatures, a Facebook group is rapidly growing, and some groups have even incorporated fitness in their anti-tax demonstrations. A Glover Park gym owner organized a Burpee Flash Mob outside the Wilson Building yesterday. Only ten people showed up, which seems to suggest the only thing residents hate more than the fitness tax is the burpee, but major points for creativity!
So, what can you do? If you are against the “fitness tax”, consider signing the petition or sharing your opinion with your council member’s office.
If the tax has you rethinking your gym membership altogether, there are other ways to get fit, such as running, walking, and biking. If you need more direction, or if you don’t want to work up a sweat outside during D.C.’s sweltering summer, consider checking out the workout routines on YouTube and Instagram. Some personal trainers, such as GlistenFit, post new workout challenges 4-5 times per week. If fitness-via-social media isn’t your thing, there are many free running groups in D.C. that offer a workout plan, encouragement, and the opportunity to make new friends.
If the legislation passes, those of you who decide to keep your memberships will not feel the impact right away. The new sales tax will go into effect at D.C.’s gyms and yoga studios beginning on January 1, 2015.