Taxing Gym Memberships? Are you kidding?
June 11, 2010
We tax tobacco, alcohol and gas. I get it. Hey, I understand taxes and I’m happy to pay them for the greater good. And those first three make sense to me. But gym memberships? Is there a worse message to our country then any disincentive at all to be physically fit?
Let me give you some background here. In the state of New Jersey (home of Real Housewives, Harold’s Deli, left turns from right lanes, and “the Situation”) and in a number of other jurisdictions, gym memberships are taxed. For the life of me it doesn’t make sense. Am I wrong? Is it me? Am I not getting something?
Most taxes assessed on choice-based activities largely have two purposes. To curb behavior (and create a disincentive to do something) and to raise money for the government who will inevitably (through taxpayers money) have to cover the costs associated with that activity.
I get it. The government doesn’t want me to smoke. It’s bad for me AND it’s bad for them. In addition to bad breath, wrinkles, and a propensity to stand outside of buildings cigarettes causes disease. All these things mean that health insurance and some worthwhile entitlement programs costs go up unfairly. So taxes hopefully discourage people from smoking. Makes sense!
Alcohol. Well aside from making me debonair, and the entire world beautiful, alcohol does have negatives. Dangerous driving, cirrhosis, and let’s not forget all those calories. This too makes sense to me. It’s clearly not good for me or for the state for me to drink to excess (one glass of wine though is good for the heart).
Gas. It’s cheaper in the US then it is just about anywhere in the world (in perhaps the greatest case of irony, gas in New Jersey is actually cheaper AND they pump it for you!), and most people can’t manage without it. So they tax it in hopes that we use less and to help pay for the infrastructure connected to it (roads, pipelines, safe transport). When it’s at $3.50/gallon, I drive less. If we consumed less the world would be a better place sooooo I get it. (And hopefully not turn the Gulf into the world’s largest deep fryer!)
But gym memberships? Healthy gym goers smoke way less (billions of dollars in healthcare savings!). Healthy gym goers bike, walk and rollerblade places and rarely order drive thru fast food to then eat in their air-conditioned, motor-running car in the parking lot (save gas, eat less fat). Healthy gym goers get less drunk because they hate calories and have to get up at 5am to work out. (Safer roads, more productive workforce.)
More healthy gym goers is one of our best chances at reducing the deficit and saving America over the next 20-50 years! And this is something for which you want to roadblock incentives? I’m sure the belief is that gym goers tend to be higher earners so they can afford it. Well, you know what? Now you’ve completely eliminated people on the threshold, forcing lower earners to do even less exercise. Instead of motivating people to take physical action to improve our situation, you’ve made them angrier about it and more likely to stop! Gyms are literally like “walk-a-thons” or “bike-rides-for-a-cause”. The more you do physically, the more everything about society benefits! This isn’t about blaming Obama or the Dems or the Republicans. This is simply about big picture, common sense solutions that benefits everyone!
Our country needs to promote fitness, not tax it. I’d love to hear from anyone why this is a smart and worthwhile tax. Please defend it. Seriously. I want to be won over by this. Because frankly, I cannot.
Get, Keep, and Know your members with MoSo
June 11th, 2010 11:07 am