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UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
Health Club Management

Health Club Management

News

Exclusive: Ditch employee gym tax to boost activity, says health club chief

The government should significantly rethink its taxation of gym memberships to get to grips with the UK’s physical inactivity pandemic.

That’s the view of The Gym Group CEO John Treharne, who believes the government should make gym memberships tax allowable to encourage more employees to take part in wellness schemes.

Currently, employees can claim back the full amount on expenses for things such as travel and food; however, subsidised gym memberships are taxed as a ‘benefit in kind’. Treharne says that ditching the tax would inspire more employees to get active and would more than pay for itself by helping to tackle the issue of physical inactivity, which is estimated to cost the UK £20bn per year and cause 37,000 early deaths.

“It’s been the case for 30 years that cost and convenience are the factors people care most about when considering a gym membership,” Treharne told Health Club Management.

“Making gym memberships tax allowable would help reduce the cost to employees, while helping to improve their health. Companies know that a healthier workforce has a beneficial impact on bottom line, so such a move would help employers, employees and the health service.”

Treharne also suggested the government re-examines the VAT rate it charges the public on gym memberships, citing the lower levels of VAT charged in many EU countries to encourage exercise. He said any reduction in VAT could be passed on to the price gyms charge members, removing the cost barrier and increasing the likelihood of an active nation.

Treharne’s recommendations chime with those of ukactive chair Tanni Grey-Thompson, who recently urged employers to drive a radical overhaul of offices to encourage physical activity around the workplace and help tackle the UK’s health woes.

Citing one of the policy calls in ukactive’s recent Blueprint for an Active Britain report, Grey-Thompson called on the government to expand the successful “Cycle to work” scheme to a ‘Workout from work’ scheme, which would include fitness trackers and gym memberships as part of an assault on inactivity in the workplace.

Asked whether the government would consider Treharne’s proposals, a Treasury spokesperson was non-committal.

“VAT is a broad based tax on consumer expenditure and the 20 per cent standard rate of VAT applies to most goods and services. While there are exceptions to that standard rate these are strictly limited under EU law,” they told Health Club Management.

“One such exception is that the activities of certain bodies, such as not-for-profits providing services closely linked with sport or physical education, including gyms.

“Therefore, where a gym is not run for a profit, there will be no VAT charge on the membership fees.”

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
The government should significantly rethink its taxation of gym memberships to get to grips with the UK’s physical inactivity pandemic.
HAF,FIT,IND,PHR,PUB
THUMB7842_939387.jpg
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News

Exclusive: Ditch employee gym tax to boost activity, says health club chief

The government should significantly rethink its taxation of gym memberships to get to grips with the UK’s physical inactivity pandemic.

That’s the view of The Gym Group CEO John Treharne, who believes the government should make gym memberships tax allowable to encourage more employees to take part in wellness schemes.

Currently, employees can claim back the full amount on expenses for things such as travel and food; however, subsidised gym memberships are taxed as a ‘benefit in kind’. Treharne says that ditching the tax would inspire more employees to get active and would more than pay for itself by helping to tackle the issue of physical inactivity, which is estimated to cost the UK £20bn per year and cause 37,000 early deaths.

“It’s been the case for 30 years that cost and convenience are the factors people care most about when considering a gym membership,” Treharne told Health Club Management.

“Making gym memberships tax allowable would help reduce the cost to employees, while helping to improve their health. Companies know that a healthier workforce has a beneficial impact on bottom line, so such a move would help employers, employees and the health service.”

Treharne also suggested the government re-examines the VAT rate it charges the public on gym memberships, citing the lower levels of VAT charged in many EU countries to encourage exercise. He said any reduction in VAT could be passed on to the price gyms charge members, removing the cost barrier and increasing the likelihood of an active nation.

Treharne’s recommendations chime with those of ukactive chair Tanni Grey-Thompson, who recently urged employers to drive a radical overhaul of offices to encourage physical activity around the workplace and help tackle the UK’s health woes.

Citing one of the policy calls in ukactive’s recent Blueprint for an Active Britain report, Grey-Thompson called on the government to expand the successful “Cycle to work” scheme to a ‘Workout from work’ scheme, which would include fitness trackers and gym memberships as part of an assault on inactivity in the workplace.

Asked whether the government would consider Treharne’s proposals, a Treasury spokesperson was non-committal.

“VAT is a broad based tax on consumer expenditure and the 20 per cent standard rate of VAT applies to most goods and services. While there are exceptions to that standard rate these are strictly limited under EU law,” they told Health Club Management.

“One such exception is that the activities of certain bodies, such as not-for-profits providing services closely linked with sport or physical education, including gyms.

“Therefore, where a gym is not run for a profit, there will be no VAT charge on the membership fees.”

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
The government should significantly rethink its taxation of gym memberships to get to grips with the UK’s physical inactivity pandemic.
HAF,FIT,IND,PHR,PUB
THUMB7842_939387.jpg

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