City Desk

Should Yoga Be Exempt from the “Yoga Tax”?

The namesake of D.C.'s much-debated "Yoga Tax"—yogis—say the discourse surrounding the recent expansion of the sales tax to include health clubs has misrepresented what they're all about.

The Yoga Alliance, a national nonprofit yoga advocacy organization that boasts more than 50,000 registered yoga instructors as members, argues that yoga is not actually a fitness program and should be exempt from the new sales tax that has come to be known as the "Yoga Tax."

As first reported by Talking Points Memo, the Yoga Alliance wrote a letter to the District's attorney general and chief financial officer this month arguing that yoga is "a comprehensive system for well-being in every dimension of the human experience: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. The physical postures and breathing techniques are only a fraction of the overall discipline of Yoga."

The tax, which the D.C. Council passed in June, would apply the city's 5.75 percent sales tax to previously exempted services like health clubs and tanning salons. It is set to go into effect next year.

In its letter, the Yoga Alliance notes that facilities which only instruct yoga in New York are exempt from the states sales tax on fitness facilities.

Although detractors of the tax in D.C. nicknamed it the "Yoga Tax,"  the alliance argues the tax does not specifically mention that it would apply to yoga studios and urges lawmakers to exclude these facilities and classes as it works out the details to implement the tax.

David Umansky, spokesman for the CFO's office, emails City Desk that his office received the Yoga Alliance's comments, but he wouldn't say whether the sales tax would ultimately extend to yoga studios: "That’s up to the lawyers and they will not comment."

Read the yogis' letter below:

Photo of yoga via Shutterstock

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