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Washington Simplifies Sales Tax on Physical Fitness


 Washington to simplify sales tax on fitness services, January 2015.

For many folks, it’s challenging to become physically fit and equally challenging to stay fit. Perhaps with that in mind, Washington State lawmakers have simplified the taxation of amusement, recreation and physical fitness services.

Simplification is due to the enactment of House Bill 1550, which takes effect January 1, 2016.

Taxable

“Operating an athletic or fitness facility, including all charges for the use of such a facility or for any associated services and amenities” is a taxable retail service. Numerous other activities and the furnishing of equipment and instruction for these activities are also subject to sales tax. These taxable activities include, but are not limited to (note the exceptions):

  • Access to amusement parks, theme parks, water parks (including admission, locker rental, cabana rental)
    • Discrete charges for rides or other attractions are exempt
  • Air hockey, billiards, pool, foosball, darts, shuffleboard, ping pong and similar games
  • Batting cage activities
  • Bowling
    • Competitive bowling events may be exempt
  • Bungee jumping, zip lining, riding inside a ball
  • Climbing on artificial climbing structures, whether indoors or outdoors
  • Fishing
    • Fishing contests and license fees imposed by a government entity are exempt
  • Go-karting, bumper cars and other motorized activities
  • Golf, including miniature golf, golf simulators, etc.
    • Charges for golf instruction may be exempt
    • Charges for golf tournaments and other competitive events may be exempt
  • Guided hunting and hunting at game farms and shooting preserves
    • Hunting contests and government license fees are exempt
  • Hang gliding, ballooning, indoor or outdoor sky diving, paragliding, parasailing, and similar activities
  • Horseback riding offered to the public
  • Non-motorized snow sports
  • Playground activities (indoor or outdoor) such as bouncy houses and trampolines
    • Playground activities provided by licensed child day care centers/family day care providers are exempt
  • Scuba diving
  • Shooting sports
  • Swimming (recreational or fitness swimming open to the public; private event pool parties)
    • Fees for swim lessons and swim meets are exempt

Exempt

Separately stated charges for the following are exempt:

  • Use of an athletic or fitness facility where such use is primarily for a purpose other than engaging in or receiving instruction in a physical fitness activity
  • Use of a discrete portion of an athletic or fitness facility, other than a pool, where such discrete portion of the facility does not by itself meet the definition of ‘athletic or fitness facility’ in this subsection
  • Services, such as advertising, massage, nutritional consulting, and body composition testing, that do not required the customer to engage in physical fitness activities to receive the service (does not apply to personal training services or instruction in a physical fitness activity)
  • Physical therapy provided by a physical therapist, … or occupational therapy provided by an occupational therapy practitioner, when prescribed by an authorized health care practitioner
  • Rent or association fees charged by a landlord or residential association to a tenant or residential owner with access to an athletic or fitness facility maintained by the landlord or residential association, unless the rent or fee varies depending on whether the tenant or owner has access to the facility
  • Services provided in the regular course of employment by an employee with access to an athletic or fitness facility maintained by the employer for use without charge by its employees or their family members
  • The provision of access to an athletic or fitness facility by an educational institution to its students and staff (charges to alumni or other members of the public are considered retail sales and are subject to sales tax)
  • Yoga, tai chi, or chi gong classes held at a community center, park, gymnasium, college or university, hospital or other medical facility, private residence, or any facility that is not primarily used for physical fitness activities other than yoga, tai chi, or chi gong classes

Read the full text of HB 1550 for additional details.

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Gail Cole
Avalara Author
Gail Cole
Gail Cole
Avalara Author Gail Cole
Gail began researching and writing about sales tax in 2012 and has been fascinated with it ever since. She has a penchant for uncovering unusual tax facts, and endeavors to make complex sales tax laws more digestible for both experts and laypeople.