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Missouri Taxes Studios, Texas to Join in Licensing Battle, Everyone Tries to Define Yoga

in Business of Yoga, YD News

lawsuit-gavel-cash-moneyThis Just In! Missouri next in the yoga taxation smackdown! Texas to follow in licensing regulation.

Kansas City, MO (via KCStar): “The Department of Revenue on Sunday began enforcing collection of a 4-percent tax on yoga and Pilates classes…”

Why? Because they are now considered commercial and places of “amusement, entertainment or recreation.”

But Debbie Borel, studio director at The Yoga Barn in south Kansas City, has something to say about it.

“This is a couple people up in a room somewhere far away from yoga classes making arbitrary decisions so the state can make more money,” Ms. Borel said  “It’s inappropriate.”

Michael Shabsin, a St. Louis-area lawyer and yoga instructor joins in!

“The practice of yoga in a studio setting is a spiritual practice, and is not done for entertainment,” he said.

But the state fires back!

“It was not because of the state’s revenue situation,” said Ted Farnen, a Revenue Department spokesman. “It was based on the fact that we wanted to apply this tax in a fair and even way.”

He’s referring to the 2008 state Supreme Court ruling that says the tax could apply to fitness facilities.

How to solve this nightmare? The method of choice (or desperation) right now is going the route of clarifying the definition of yoga. Is it fitness? Is it education? Is it religious? So here we go again, having to define and redefine yoga to sidestep a government stranglehold. Hey, maybe the real yoga shouldn’t be taxed and the fake-o stuff should foot the bill. Or perhaps our pal Bob W. had the right idea with the alternative Yobo. Just change the name! But then who gets to decide which is which? (this has come up a few other timesyogort anyone?

“Farnen said in a statement that the Revenue Department would consider religious exemptions to the tax on a case-by-case basis.”

Fabulous, let’s have the religious debate again shall we? We’re keeping an eye on this one.

Meanwhile, in other regulator news, commenter Roger Rippy, of YogaOne in Houston, alerted us to Texas now throwing their cowboy hat in the licensing ring. Here’s his comment from the NY State Licensing post:

All: Texas is lining up to do battle. We are forming a Texas Yoga Association for teachers, studios and schools to unite to advocate in support of common interests. Please contact Jennifer@breathecure.org for more information.

When we said Yogis Unite! we weren’t kidding. YANY is still working hard to fight for the bill which would exempt studios with teacher training programs from paying outrageous fees to NY State. As of now the jury is still out, but at least the message has been sent. And a yogi’s intention is not something you want to mess with!

EarlierTeaching Yoga? License and Registration, Please!
Update: Victory for NY Yoga Studios! Licensing Shakedown Squashed
VA Licensing Update: Yogis Rally Rebuttal, Open Avocation vs. A Vocation Debate

Yoga in School OK if Not Called Yoga

7 comments… add one

  • Booo!!! and this is my home state. So sad :(

  • Thanks for the great summary of past articles and issues.

    The problem is that the “Yoga” is used for everything from pure fitness to pure spirituality, and everything in between and every combination of everything in between.

    I personally embrace this diversity, but just try to imagine how confusing it is to an outsider just looking in!

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  • I live in MO and I am disgusted. It breaks my heart. Believe me, there will be some letters written.

  • Kai

    I have to admit, this yoga/religion issue makes me want to roll my eyes just a tad.

    Seems like just yesterday I read an article gently asserting that yoga is NOT a religion. I believe it was a response to the evangelical Christian fear that doing yoga is akin to becoming Hindu (or worse, Communing with the Devil).

    We can’t have it both ways. It’s either a religion, or it’s not.

    (And this is just one layer of the onion…I’ll leave the commentary re: ‘Yoga in the West’ to Linda…)

    *ahem* However…more to the point:

    With the prevalence of obesity in the United States, along with diabetes, heart disease, cancer, not to mention good old fashioned ‘stress’, what the heck is the government thinking, taxing FITNESS of all things?!

    Seems to me that anything that improves the health of citizens should be a tax-free endeavour. And I really don’t think yoga qualifies as ‘entertainment’, no matter now good the teacher’s jokes are.

  • sangos

    Yoga IS spiritual in India…but commercial in America, so the taxes are fully justified. Maybe if they are steep enough people will remember the ‘antarnga sadhana’ of Yoga

  • As promised, Texas is getting organized. http://www.texyoga.org Taxes are not the issue. The Texas Workforce Commission has seen fit to exempt from regulation/licensing the following as an “avocation” (that is, not a career):
    Dance, Rifle Ranges
    Music, Sewing
    Judo and Karate Knitting
    Physical Fitness, Sport,s or Athletics
    Riding Academies, Swimming.
    The Texas Yoga Association and its members are merely arguing that yoga fits into the above categories than a career school. Yoga isn’t a religion, in my opinion, although it does promote spirituality, mediation and contemplation. If it were a religion, it would have exempt status under state and federal law. That is not what we are talking about, at least in Texas.

  • Kimberly

    Interested parties may want to take a look at this part of the Washington Administrative Code that defines physical fitness services, and clearly exempts yoga as a taxable service under the law:
    “(l) “Physical fitness services” include, but are not limited to: All exercise classes, whether aerobic, dance, water, jazzercise, etc., providing running tracks, weight lifting, weight training, use of exercise equipment, such as treadmills, bicycles, stair-masters and rowing machines, and providing personal trainers (i.e., a person who assesses an individual’s workout needs and tailors a physical fitness workout program to meet those individual needs). “Physical fitness services” do not include instructional lessons such as those for self-defense, martial arts, yoga, and stress-management. Nor do these services include instructional lessons for activities such as tennis, golf, swimming, etc. “Instructional lessons” can be distinguished from “exercise classes” in that instruction in the activity is the primary focus in the former and exercise is the primary focus in the latter.”

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