Making Gym Memberships Tax Deductible

Australia’s peak health and fitness body, AUSactive is suggesting the government tackles the national obesity crisis by making gym memberships tax deductible. Currently, tax deductions for gym memberships are only available to persons whose occupation requires a high fitness standard to be maintained. The proposal to make gym memberships exempt from Fringe Benefits Tax legislation has been put to the Treasurer ahead of the 2024 budget being announced.

Are gym memberships tax deductible?

Whilst many professions require a certain level of fitness or physical ability, at present only a handful of people with specific occupational requirements can claim their gym memberships as a work-related expense.

Even police officers and firefighters can’t claim fitness expenses, despite having to pass medical examinations and fitness tests to maintain employment. Members of elite sections, such as the tactical response police whose role requires an extremely high level of fitness can claim fitness expenses, but the regular cop who is expected to chase down the occasional bad guy, can’t.

It’s a conversation had between thousands of workers and their accountants each year and at present, there are very limited circumstances in which someone can claim a deduction. According to the Australian Tax Office, you can only claim a deduction for fitness expenses if strenuous physical activity is an essential and regular element of your work.

gym memberships tax deductible

The argument for making gym memberships tax deductible

Barrie Elvish, CEO of AUSactive has raised the disconnect between how fitness activities are currently categorised. Currently, physical activity expenses such as gym memberships, yoga, and Pilates studio classes are classified as entertainment. 

“Comparing bending an elbow in a pub to bending an elbow with a barbell in a gym is ludicrous,” he said.

With supporting data that indicates more than a third of diseases could be mitigated with greater levels of physical activity, Mr. Elvish is urging the Treasury to look at their return on investment by encouraging Aussies to lead healthier lifestyles

“It’s absurd and ironic that a taxpayer can claim a deduction for donations to health-related not-for-profit organisations but not to proactively improve their own health,” he said.

As the Federal Budget draws nearer, AUSactive’s proposal to the government includes:

  1. Grant employees an exemption under the fringe Benefit Tax (FBT) legislation to enable them to provide their staff with gym memberships without penalty
  2. Allow Australians to claim an income tax deduction for bona fide active health participation and gym memberships; and
  3. Partner with us and grassroots organisations to develop and implement a national public health campaign to educate Australians about the vital role of physical activity in enhancing their physical and mental well-being.

To show your support for the proposal, you can sign a petition through AUSactive here.

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