Saskatchewan Rolls Back Plan to Add Tax to Gym Memberships

An angry, frustrated woman holds up a sign that says "tax day."

Gyms in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan got a win recently:

The government is walking back a provincial sales tax (PST) expansion that would have forced gyms to add another 6 percent to members’ final bills.

With inflation out of control in most of the world, that’s at least a small victory for gym businesses that are still dealing with the lingering effects of COVID restrictions and increasing energy prices.

A head shot of writer Mike Warkentin and the column name "Pressing It Out."

Saskatchewan announced the PST expansion in spring, with implementation set for October. Gyms were lumped in with rodeos, sports events, concerts and museums despite the fact that gyms are an important upstream part of any jurisdiction’s health-care system.

Read more: “New Tax on Some Canadian Gyms Is Beyond Stupid”

When the measure was announced, gyms and groups such as the Fitness Industry Council of Canada spoke out. Their voices no doubt had an effect, but money talks at greater volume:

The tax cancellation is largely due to a projected CDN$1.04 billion budget surplus in Saskatchewan. High prices for potash and oil equal a windfall for the province and some breathing room for gyms.

Given that the provincial government was swift to lump gyms together with rodeos and other spectator sports, it’s clear that elected representatives still don’t see how gyms reduce health-care costs. I won’t run out the stats again; I’ll just link to this New York Times article: “Lifelong Exercise Adds up to Big Health-Care Savings.” And I’ll remind gym owners everywhere that they can’t stop telling politicians about the work they do.

Lobbying and politicking might not be the stuff of dreams for most fitness trainers. But gym owners aren’t just trainers; they’re entrepreneurs, and most have goals of improving health in their communities. That means they must keep collecting data and publishing it regularly on every platform.

Doing so is essential for two reasons:

1. Governments tend to run up debts more often than they have extra money, so the tax agents will no doubt circle back to gyms.

2. The general public must learn that fitness is an investment with incredible ROI. Inflation is pushing most people to cut costs, so gym owners need to remind them that their membership fee is an expense that comes with an impressive return. And when the government returns with new tax measures, the protests of gym members will carry more weight than those of gym owners alone.

The win in Saskatchewan is great, but the battle should serve as a reminder to gym owners around the world:

Show everyone you can how your services help people—and governments—save money.

Best-case scenario: People move gym-membership fees from the expense column to the investment column on the balance sheet. And the tax collector stays away from businesses that literally save governments money.

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