Yoga Tax Meets Warrior Pose
- Jun 24, 2014 | Gail Cole
Last update, 1.3.2018: Mayor Vincent C. Gray vetoed the FY 2015 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2014, which included a highly controversial tax on health club services, citing his unwillingness to tax wellness. The City Council overrode the mayor's veto, and the tax took effect October 2014.
If Washington D.C. lawmakers thought yoga aficionados would simply go into corpse pose and let a proposed yoga tax flow over them, they were wrong. The yoga tax (or fitness tax or wellness tax) has inspired scores of people to perform the warrior pose on Freedom Plaza. It has clogged hallways with dozens of lobbying “Don’t Tax Wellness Coalition” members. It has landed the proposed tax on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.
Yoga is said to be rooted in ancient warfare, something D.C. lawmakers have undoubtedly noticed by now. But the battle has been lost. The D.C. Council voted today to keep the 5.75% yoga tax in the budget. It is set to take effect January 1, 2015.
Still, the war may not be over. Mayoral candidate David Catania calls the tax “wrongheaded and counterproductive” and has vowed to discourage it. He has tweeted, “As Mayor I will submit an FY 16 budget that will repeal the Wellness Tax.”
There has been much talk of the need to encourage fitness, not tax it. Opponents of the tax argue that adding even a few dollars to a monthly gym membership or a yoga class can be enough to deter people on a tight budget. Yet Phil Mendelson, chairman of the D.C. council, insists the tax is “too small to ‘measurably affect business activity.’”
Time will tell. In the meantime, there are numerous plans to “win-back” the tax-exempt status of yoga. “Chief among these plans is to classify yoga as a religious activity, which by definition can’t be taxed.”
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