Is that gym membership tax deductible…or just taxing on your bank account?
New Year’s day came and went. Brimming with good resolutions plus one too many Carlton Draught’s, you went out and dropped a pretty penny on a pricey gym membership.
How did that go? Did your NAB account number also get a nice little work-out taking care of your online shopping carts at LuLu Lemon, GNC and Nike? Have a six pack you can now trade for that one in the cooler? If yes, then congrats and good going!
But it’s likely earning those extra muscles made a dent in your wallet as big as your newly-defined glutes. And if so, you’re as likely wondering if you can claim your gym membership fees as a tax deduction come lodgment time. It seems only fair given all the hard work, right?
It turns out the ATO is not so keen to offer a reward for a good cardio workout. In fact, while it’s a common misconception among gym-goers, especially if keeping fit was somehow required by their job, that their gym fees are deductible on their tax return. Only a few among us will prove eligible.
According to the ATO, one can only claim a tax deduction for a gym membership if the employee can demonstrate that strenuous physical activity is an absolute essential and regular factor of his or her income earning activities and that the costs were directly incurred to maintain a fitness level WELL ABOVE the profession’s general standard.
In other words…be prepared to pay full price for that Black Label Fitness First Membership.
What is WELL ABOVE the general standard of being fit?
Generally speaking, there are two professions that allow a gym membership deduction IF they are required by their employer to maintain a fitness level well above the general standard. These are as follows:
- Defence Force Members
- Professional Sportspersons
Now, in each of these categories, there are many different types of workers. Not all of them will be able to claim a gym membership as a tax deduction. It is more of a case-by-case situation. To break things down a bit more, let’s take a look at some examples.
Defence Force Members
The most commonly known among this group would be a police officer. We’ll use Roger as an example:
Roger graduated from the police academy three years ago and has been employed ever since with his local department. As an entry level officer, Roger was encouraged to keep up with his fitness as he would be required to pass a standard physical fitness test once a year. With this in mind, Roger decided to join a gym. Being that Roger was only encouraged (not required) to maintain his fitness for a standard annual test, the ATO would not allow him to claim a gym membership as a deduction on his tax return.
So, when could a police officer claim a deduction for a gym membership?
Let’s stick with Roger…
After his three years as a police officer, Roger was promoted to a police academy physical training instructor. Along with other new responsibilities, Roger would also be required to maintain a superb level of fitness in order to sustain his position as an instructor. At this point, Roger’s job duties require him to have a fitness level “well above the general standard” which means that claiming his gym membership and gym fees as a tax deduction would be permitted by the ATO.
See the difference? The same would apply to other defence force members with fitness requirements that are also above average.
This profession is slightly more self-explanatory. According to the ATO, deducting the cost of fitness for a professional sportsperson is allowable because earning an income in that position goes hand in hand with maintaining a very high level of physical fitness. If this fitness level cannot be maintained, employment is in jeopardy of being terminated.
So who cannot claim gym membership fees?
Although the ATO has acknowledged that the following professions are encouraged to maintain a high standard of general physical fitness, these professionals are NOT required to reach and maintain a fitness level WELL ABOVE average. The following professionals will therefore not be able to deduct their gym membership fees according to the ATO:
- a model
- a dancer
- a physical education teacher
- a standard police officer
- a firefighter
- an ambulance officer/paramedic
- an adult industry worker
- a fitness instructor (unless they are able to prove that they are required to maintain a fitness standard WELL ABOVE the average)
- a personal trainer (unless they are able to prove that they are required to maintain a fitness standard WELL ABOVE the average)
Are you still unsure if you can claim your gym fees as a tax deduction?
Not to worry! The ATO can easily see which occupation codes match with claiming a gym membership tax deduction. This makes it a bit impossible for those of us without a corresponding occupation code to claim those fees but it is convenient for those who can and would like to confirm with the ATO.
OH! And sorry, but regardless of whether you can claim your gym membership, keep in mind that those new slim-fit yoga pants and protein powders will never be deductible on your tax return.
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