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TALKBACK jo talbot • assistant editor • health club management
everyone’s talking about . . .
tax cuts
Other countries have introduced tax breaks for people who are healthy and
active, and it’s been suggested we do the same in the UK – but would it work?
“T
here have always recent FIA Industry Summit. However, rates. Norway has no VAT on fi tness
been debates within there have been no moves so far on this at all, for example. In the Netherlands,
the industry about front from the Labour government, and the VAT is 6 per cent, and there are
how to secure a more unfortunately the Department of Health also tax-deductible company subsidies
favourable position in the taxation of declined to take part in this article. of gym membership plus subsidies on
fi tness,” says the FIA’s Andrée Deane. Deane adds: “Lamb has shown membership provided by most health
Suggestions from Norman Lamb of the much interest in the hugely successful insurers. And in Switzerland, where VAT
Liberal Democrats introduce a new Child Fitness Tax Credit in Canada” – on fi tness is 7.6 per cent, more than half
element to the debate, she adds. explained below by the Fitness Industry of health insurance members receive
Lamb is calling for PCTs to be Council of Canada. “There are also subsidies of up to 500CHF (£280).
given the power to adjust local several other examples of governments Apart from cutting VAT on fi tness,
taxation policies in favour of people which have successfully implemented tax other ways of using tax to reward healthy
who take healthy choices. These incentives for those who keep healthy.” living might include rebates on council
suggestions appear to be supported In the UK, operators are starting to tax or other local taxes, as favoured by
by the Conservatives – shadow health pass on the recent VAT cut, bringing the Lib Dems, or tax-deductible options
secretary Andrew Lansley signalled his tax on their offering to 15 per cent. in corporation and income tax. So which
support for policies of this type at the But other countries have much lower should we use in the UK?
SHOULD THE UK REWARD HEALTHY BEHAVIOUR WITH TAX BREAKS? EMAIL US: HEALTHCLUB@LEISUREMEDIA.COM
norman lamb dave hardy
liberal democrats • shadow health secretary Fitness Industry Council of Canada • president
“H
ealth insurance schemes that
offer discounts for taking healthy “T
he UK should follow Canada’s lead
in using tax credits to motivate
choices are worth studying to see what its population to engage in fi tness. Our
lessons can be learned in our tax-funded government adopted a Children’s Fitness
system. So far in this country, government Tax Credit in 2007 (CAN$500/£269)
policy has focused on providing incentives – a non-refundable tax credit based
for professionals, such as GPs, to promote on eligible expenses paid by parents to
preventive health care. But why not offer register a child in a prescribed programme
incentives direct to citizens? of physical activity. In doing so, it agreed
Local health boards could follow Canada’s lead by offering a that a fi nancial incentive is an appropriate way to increase physical
tax-back payment for each child enrolled in sports or activity activity among Canadians – and some provinces have also adopted
clubs, and also provide incentives – such as discounts at local an Adult Fitness Tax Credit, which is being studied nationwide.
shops or leisure facilities, or tax rebates – for adults to attend Economist studies have shown that the government would save
check-ups, nutrition assessments or preventative screening tests. billions in tax dollars by using their tax credits to get more adult
The Canadian scheme offers a tax rebate on income tax, but Canadians active, as healthier citizens need less health care and
this would be diffi cult to introduce in the UK – we favour a local miss less work due to illness. The Centre for Spatial Economics
income tax to replace council tax. In the meantime, councils concluded that it would take just three years for the health care
should be able to offer a rebate on council tax payments. Using cost-savings resulting from a more active, healthier population to
money raised in this way, health boards could focus incentives outweigh the net personal tax losses incurred by the government.
schemes particularly on disadvantaged communities. After 21 years, with a tax credit of up to CAN$500 per person,
The focus should be on individual encouragement, support and the government would see health care savings of CAN$9.1bn and
incentives. We need to think more carefully about how we live net personal tax losses of CAN$6.6bn. With similar government-
our lives and make it easier for people to make healthy choices.

funded systems, the UK would likely see the same results.

32 Read Health Club Management online january 2009 © cybertrek 2009
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