Tax break for fitness a good idea

Published: Fri 4 Sep 2009 05:02 PM
Media Release,
4 September 2009
Tax break for fitness a good idea
New Zealandshould look at how Australiais considering a tax break for gym membership, says Les Mills New Zealand CEO Reece Zondag.
Supporting people to become more active is an obvious thing for any country to do. However, New Zealandmay need to take a different approach given its different tax structure to Australia.
Mr Zondag says one approach would be for the New Zealandgovernment to support businesses in providing health and fitness benefits for their staff, such as gym memberships.
“With fringe benefit tax on gym memberships paid for by employers up to 64%, it’s an active deterrent for many companies.” says Mr Zondag.
However membership on its own is not the ideal metric – attendance to the gym is the thing employers should look at.
“I know of some companies who do contribute to the employee’s membership, however the contribution can only be accessed if minimum attendance levels are reached” says Mr Zondag. “Almost any gym in New Zealandcould supply attendance records to employers if requested to do so”.
He says Kiwis seem to be continuing to value their personal health and fitness despite recessionary times. And equally businesses recognise that healthier employees mean less sick days and increased productivity. Put very simply ‘Fit people cost less to run’.
Australia’s Preventative Health Task Force has recommended Australians should get tax breaks if they can show they are attending exercise classes. The recommendation is one of a number aimed at promoting good health and wellbeing.
“Our goal is to have our members make the most use they can of their membership,” he says. “Our focus is making fitness fun – members just have to get through the door and we’ll ensure they get and stay active.”
Mr Zondag says he can vouch for the value of joining a gym, or team or group to improve fitness outcomes. He is one of 120 people, including many corporate teams and a celebrity team, currently participating in Les Mills Boobcamp to raise money for breast cancer research. The programme involves team exercise three mornings a week for one month.

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