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Push for tax-free gym memberships

Content smiling woman sitting on a floor
Aussies should be able to claim back the cost of their gym memberships at tax time, the fitness industry’s peak body says.

Health-conscious Aussies should be able to claw back some of the cost of a gym membership as a tax deduction, a peak body has recommended.

As data suggests 36 per cent of diseases could be improved through increased physical activity, fitness body AUSactive has used a pre-budget submission to demand the expectation under the fringe benefits tax legislation.

Currently, a tax deduction is only available for professions that require a high level of fitness, but the body says this should be expanded to all Aussies.

It would mean gym memberships and activities such as pilates, yoga and tai chi would qualify for a deduction at tax time.

Aussies should be able to get a tax deduction for gym memberships. Picture: Pixabay
Aussies should be able to get a tax deduction for gym memberships. Picture: Pixabay

AUSactive chief Barrie Elvish described the policy as a “no-brainer”.

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“Given the government already uses the tax system … to encourage Australians to take out private health insurance to reduce demand on the state hospital system, why not also use the tax system to keep Australians out of the healthcare system?” he said.

“Making gym memberships tax-deductible will relieve cost-of-living pressures for people who are proactively endeavouring to look after their health and will encourage people to engage in regular exercise, contributing to a healthier and more productive population.”

Australian Money Background
The money saved could help slash the cost of Australia's sedentary lifestyle. Picture: Supplied

Mr Barrie said exercise in gyms, pilates, yoga studios and leisure centres was categorised as entertainment.

“Comparing bending an elbow in a pub to bending an elbow with a barbell in a gym is ludicrous,” he said.

“It’s absurd and ironic that a taxpayer can claim a deduction for donations to health-related not-for-profit organisations but not to proactively improve their own health.”

The chief executive said if tax deductions were implemented it would slash the $27bn spent in the health system treating diseases caused by inactivity, along with enticing more employees back to offices.

The budget is expected to be handed down on May 14.