Washington, D.C. Council mulling over a sales tax on gyms, yoga studios

Progressives are fans of arguing that “sin” taxes on things like cigarettes and sugary beverages are a great idea because they not only discourage unhealthy behaviors that can lead to lung cancer and obesity, but that they save the public money on healthcare costs while boosting revenue at the same time. In other words, they readily recognize that when you tax something, you usually get less of it.

So, this would be… what? A “virtue” tax, levied in these uncertain times of egregiously expanding public healthcare costs? Via the DCist:

As part of a vote on the fiscal year 2015 budget, the Council approved several recommendations from the Tax Revision Commission, including some that will cut taxes for many D.C. residents.

Also approved was the so-called “yoga tax” — a 5.75 percent sales tax on “water consumption for home, storage of household goods/mini storage, carpet and upholstery cleaning, health clubs and tanning studios, car washes, and bowling alleys and billiard parlors.” That tax, which first was considered in 2010, was part of the commission recommendations published months ago. But its adoption in a budget that appeared 18 hours before the first Council vote seems to have blindsided many, a claim Council Chair Phil Mendelson addressed thusly: “The burden is on the public to pay attention to what we’re doing.”

…How nice. The Council is arguing that they are merely removing these products and services from the list of things that are exempted from a sales tax and that this is part of a broader package of overall tax cuts that will eventually lower a lot of residents’ taxes over the next several years. The final vote isn’t until June, but they certainly snuck the so-called “yoga tax” into the first round of voting beneath the radar at the last minute. When the idea was first proposed back in 2010, there was a major and well-organized backlash against it from the city’s considerable fitness community, and it sounds like they were deliberately trying to circumvent a repeat scenario — and this is all going down just after the D.C. Council approved a one-percent tax on insurance plans to help pay for ObamaCare earlier this month, by the way. I’m just glad I don’t live there.

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Jazz Shaw 5:01 PM on March 22, 2023