Will The Government Soon Be Subsidizing Your Workout?

House bill would make certain fitness-related expenses tax free

Did you ever think your gym membership could be considered a tax-free medical expense? How about the registration fees for your softball league; or your kids’ summer camp; or your workout equipment?

The Personal Health Investment Today Act (PHIT) Act would make that the case, amending the tax code to allow individuals and families to use pre-tax medical accounts for fitness-related expenses.

Citing the high rate of obesity-related diseases in America, the bill’s stated purpose is to “promote health and prevent disease” by “encouraging healthier lifestyles; providing financial incentives to ease the financial burden of engaging in healthy behavior; and increasing the ability of individuals and families to participate in physical fitness activities.”

In short: The government would subsidize your physical activity.

Individuals would be allowed to spend up to $1000 a year from their pre-tax accounts, and families up to $2000, on expenses such as those listed above, as well as race fees, school sports fees, personal trainers, exercise DVDs and more. (Excluded are sports apparel and footwear.)

The act, first introduced by Democratic Wisconsin Rep. Ron Kind in 2009 and reintroduced in 2013 with bipartisan support, is getting a renewed push by lobbyists.

The Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) and PHIT America, an advocacy group backing the legislation, are hosting a lobbying event called “National Health Through Fitness Day” on March 5 in which celebrity athletes, sporting goods manufacturers and other fitness association leaders will meet with members of Congress to encourage the bill’s passage.

The PHIT Act has been stalled in the House Ways and Means Committee for a year.

Among the founders of PHIT America are retailers including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Sports Authority and Sears, but also the American College of Sports Medicine and the race registration website Active.com.

The lobbyists will also advocate for continued funding for the Physical Education Program, a federal grant program that funds P.E. programs in local school districts.