Is my gym membership tax deductible?

December 15th, 2013


Is my GYM membership tax deductible?

Unfortunately this is one area of tax law where the answer from the Tax Office will almost always come back as a NO! As personal trainers hit the streets in droves, the Tax Office are being extremely careful to stand their ground, keeping the tax deduction of gym memberships for the rare privileged taxpayer.

Generally fitness expenses such as the cost of a gym membership are considered by the ATO to be private in nature as it ultimately involves the person’s own physical wellbeing.  This position does not change, even if the person is employed to undertake physical activity as part of their duties.  For example, a school PE teacher or a personal trainer.

When looking at gym membership fees the Tax Office will always refer to Taxation Ruling 95/17.  This particular ruling talks about Australian Defence Force members and the levels of fitness required for gym memberships to be tax deductible.  Although this ruling relates specifically to Defence personnel, it can be used as a guide in determining how the ATO might treat gym memberships for all other occupations.

Let’s have a closer look at TR 95/17.  This ruling states the following:

A deduction is not allowable for fitness expenses as it is considered to be private.  However a deduction is allowable for these costs if the Defence Force member can demonstrate that strenuous physical activity is an essential and regular element of his or her income earning activities and that these costs were incurred to maintain a level of fitness WELL ABOVE the Defence Force general standard.

This begs the question – what level of fitness would be considered WELL ABOVE the general standard?

TR 95/17 gives us an example:

An Australian Defence Force member who is part of the Special Air Services Regiment would be entitled to a tax deduction for their fitness expenses.

TR 95/13 also gives us an example:

A police officer who was a police academy physical training instructor demands a level of physical fitness well above that generally required of a police officer.  Therefore they would be able to claim a tax deduction for their fitness expenses.

Some professional sportspersons and professional dancers may also be required to keep a level of fitness WELL ABOVE the general standard.

So who can’t claim gym membership fees?

The ATO has acknowledged that the following occupations are required to maintain a high standard of general physical fitness.  However, they are not required to maintain a fitness standard WELL ABOVE an ordinary defence force member.  Therefore gym membership fees will generally not be tax deductible for the following taxpayers:

–         A fitness instructor (unless they can prove they are required to maintain a fitness standard of a police academy physical training instructor)

–         A personal trainer (unless they can prove they are required to maintain a fitness standard of a police academy physical training instructor)

–         A standard police officer

–         A PE teacher

–         A fire fighter

–         An ambulance officer

–         A model

I strongly recommend submitting a private binding ruling to the Tax Office if you would like to claim a gym membership and you fall into any of these categories.  Gym memberships can be easily matched with your occupation code on your tax return making it painfully obvious to the tax office for those people that are incorrectly claiming a tax deduction.

Note that if you’re not eligible for claiming gym memberships, then this is a good guide that other expenses such as sports shoes and home gym equipment will also not be tax deductible.

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