Yoga Alliance has come out in opposition of the Washington D.C. “Yoga Tax” that would impose a 5.75 percent sales tax on prior-nontaxable services like gyms and yoga studios, as well as other services like car washes and bowling alleys. Many opposers have already voiced their disapproval of the proposal, which would kick in Jan. 2015 if passed, and have started a campaign to put an end to it before the city Council’s final vote on June 17.
Yoga Alliance, having stepped up to the mic several times in recent memory about issues like online yoga video patents, is taking a more vocal stand against this proposed tax offering five reasons why the community needs to speak out against it as well.
Taxing yoga = taxing essential healthcare. Washington, D.C. does not tax essential health care services — like doctor visits, medications and medical procedures. It should similarly exempt essential preventative health care services — like yoga and fitness — that keep people healthy in the first place. Washingtonians are no strangers to stress, stress-related illness, depression, anxiety and obesity. Yoga and fitness are among the most potent antidotes to these problems and can encourage people to become more productive. This not only builds D.C.’s tax revenue base, it also reduces stress on city resources devoted to providing physical and mental healthcare, and to managing secondary ills from gaps in this care.
In the long run, taxing yoga, health and wellness services will cost the city more money in additional costs in the physical and mental health care necessary for citizens who forego these services as a result of the tax’s disincentives. This new tax would cover yoga, meditation and all things fitness-related, as well as other service-based industries, including water delivery services, storage lockers, carpet cleaning, car washes, and bowling and billiards. Exempted from the tax are barber shops, beauty salons and construction contracts for reasons left unexplained.
D.C. does not need the yoga tax to generate income. According to City Council member Jack Evans, chairman of the District’s Committee on Finance and Revenue, Washington “doesn’t need money” because the city is already “producing record surpluses.” [Source] As he wrote in an op-ed, “Taxes are not simply to raise revenue, but also express our policy preferences. With that in mind, why would we want to create disincentives for our residents who want to make healthy choices by joining health clubs, especially when it is clear that we do not need the extra money?” [Source]
Beauty salons and construction firms are exempt. The yoga tax is part of a comprehensive tax proposal [Source] which included other services exempted from the budget bill voted on by the City Council– including taxes on construction firms, beauty salons, and spas located in corporate-owned hotels [Source]. If council members found sufficient reason to exempt them, we would like to know why they won’t exempt essential services like yoga and fitness too.
The tax on health clubs and yoga studios would fall hardest on young people who can least afford to pay it and who city officials want to live in D.C. While national surveys show the median annual income of the average yoga practitioner is higher than the national median income, yoga teachers themselves on average earn considerably less money. Meanwhile, many yoga studios only serve a few dozen or a couple hundred customers. Losing even a few students due to an unnecessary tax increase could put small studios out of business.
YA maintains: “The tax will discourage District residents from maintaining their health and will also hurt many small businesses in the city, including yoga studios.”
You can head over to their website for more information which they did a pretty good job of laying out.