Tax deductible gym memberships proposed - WKRN News 2

Tax deductible gym memberships proposed

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -

As the New Year kicks off, gyms are seeing an increase in people signing up for gym memberships.

According to the International Health, Racquet & Sports Club Association (IHRSA), January ranks second behind March for new gym memberships.

Gyms typically see a 12% increase in the number of people signing up for gym memberships in January.

In Congress, some lawmakers have pushed to make those gym memberships fees tax deductible.

Currently, gym memberships are deductible in very narrow circumstances.

For example, a business that provides an on-site exercise facility can deduct the value of the facility on its tax return.

But, that does not impact the employee's tax liability.

One proposal at the federal level is called the Workforce Health Improvement Program (WHIP) Act.

WHIP would continue to allow a business to deduct the value of its on site exercise facility, but would also allow the employer to take a tax deduction on payments to an off-site health club on behalf of its employees.

It would also remove a requirement in the tax code that employees report employer payments on their behalf to a health club as income.

The other proposal is called The Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act.

PHIT would allow individuals to pay for various physical activities, like health club memberships, fitness programs and exercise equipment with pre-tax dollars from a tax-favored account.

It is much like a health savings account people can already use to pay for prescriptions and doctors visit.

Both measures are pending reintroduction during the new session of Congress that began, Thursday.

According to IHRSA, the average gym membership is $55 a month, or $660 a year.

"If people are healthier here in America it leads to an overall better economy and better way of life," Tennessee Titans Cheerleader Anne P. said, adding, "We have put so much emphasis on health care and having better health care, but at the heart of it exercising and eating right on a daily basis."

Anne is a regular participant at Barry's Bootcamp in the Gulch.

Barry's Bootcamp describes its workout as "The Best Workout in the World" that includes many celebrity clients.

The Nashville location opened in the summer of 2012.

"Here at Barry's we are a program that is a high intense interval type of program," Owner Antonio Compton said. "The long-term effect for that type of training is you have a stronger heart and healthier lungs."

One of Compton's clients has lost 10 pounds and gotten rid of high blood pressure in just a few weeks of attending classes.

"I have seen myself get much leaner," Dolly Thomas said. "Because working out, moving things and getting that good blood flow I feel great."

The IHRSA estimates that if all inactive American adults engaged in regular activity the country could see $76.6 billion in direct medical cost savings.

That is one of the reason supporters advocate allowing those savings to be realized in tax breaks to people who take the initiative to better their health.

Compton thinks it would be an incentive to help people get active.

"It is a benefit for everybody not only to get healthier and happier, but you are getting a dollar back," he said, "or two, three, four or five dollars."

Supporters of both measures report strong bi-partisan support in both chambers of Congress.

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