- - Monday, February 10, 2014


On Sunday, I went for a workout to Planet Fitness, where upon entering I noticed a sign on the desk that read, “Attention Members, Holders of Black Card Memberships will be required to pay a tax on these memberships starting January 1, 2014, as required by the implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act. This is not a change in your membership fee, but rather a tax required by the government.”

Immediately questioning why this tax was going to be added to my monthly membership fee of $19.99, I decided to ask a staff member. My first thought was that the tax was a result of the 10 percent tanning tax that was implemented in 2010 and revised in 2012.

The staff member told me that this was, in fact, where the tax was coming from and that a 5-cent tax would be added to my monthly membership.

Owing to my interest in public policy and legislation, I knew quite a bit about the so-called “tanning tax,” and the last I knew was that fitness centers whose business wasn’t primarily tanning were exempt from this tax.

Sure enough, I visited the Internal Revenue Service website and found under Chapter 1, Non-Taxable Services, there’s a whole section on why “Qualified Physical Fitness Facilities” are exempt. The IRS website specifically states: “Payments to a Qualified Physical Fitness Facility (QPFF) that includes access to indoor tanning services are not subject to the indoor tanning services excise tax.”

So why is it that Black Card memberships are now being taxed? The answer is unclear. The IRS clearly exempts fitness centers from this “tanning tax” under Obamacare. Many people purchase the Black Card membership for the many amenities that it provides, such as unlimited access to all Planet Fitness locations nationwide, massage chairs and guest passes — not just the unlimited tanning.

The unlimited tanning is a small percentage of Planet Fitness’ business, and that is why the IRS provision exempts them. Now all Black Card members are subject to this tax, just because they choose to purchase an all-inclusive membership in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle and fitness routine.

As a frequent gym goer and a Black Card member, I am not thrilled about this new tax. I have been a member at Planet Fitness for more than three years, and I enjoy the gym because it offers flexible hours.

Many locations are open 24 hours, and they also give you the option to workout at any location, which accommodates busy lifestyles. People should be encouraged to work out — not taxed because they choose a membership that also offers unlimited tanning.

While the merits of tanning can be discussed at length, the tanning tax was quite controversial when it was first implemented. It should be debated now, though, as to why fitness centers are forced to collect a tax on their memberships if the package offers the unlimited tanning amenity.

This tax is an example of the effects of continued big federal government regulation and the taxing machine known as Obamacare. The tanning tax was originally implemented to help fund the $940 billion health care overhaul, but the tax has generated significantly less revenue than expected.

This burdensome tanning tax has already hurt many small businesses across the country and has caused tanning salons to lay off employees or close down their shops.

This new tax is only 5 cents, but it’s the principle of the matter. Big government chooses to tax anything and everything when it can. These taxes are out of control and egregious.

Since the “tanning tax” didn’t bring in the projected revenue, is this why fitness centers are now forced to collect this tax on its members?

Ashley Pratte is the public relations officer for Young America’s Foundation.

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