it’s time to get our tax system into shape

By making the Fringe Benefits Tax fairer for small businesses, we can make fitness more accessible to more people.

Recently, Fitness Australia launched #FITnotFBT: Get our tax system into shape, a campaign that aims to create a healthy and productive workforce for all businesses by addressing a fundamental inequity in our tax system.

Currently, larger employers who can provide fitness services on their premises qualify for a Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) exemption. However, if a small or medium-sized business, that doesn’t have space for an on-site gym, wants to provide precisely the same service via a local gym or a qualified fitness professional in the local park, they don’t qualify for an FBT exemption.

We are of the view that there should be a level playing field. All businesses, big and small, should be able to incentivise their workforce to get, and stay, fit and healthy.

With small-to-medium businesses accounting for 70 per cent of Australian jobs, it is counterproductive to have a tax incentive that effectively penalises the majority of businesses for trying to create a healthier, more productive workforce.

#FITnotFBT: Get our tax system into shape, proposes to expand the FBT exemption to apply to services that are also offered off-site.

This means qualifying for an exemption for personal training sessions, boot camps, gym membership and the use of a studio – as long as the facilities and instructors meet required standards.

The campaign is supported by leading business groups, including the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and Council of Small Business Australia (COSBOA).

This initiative is vitally important given that 60 per cent of Australian adults don’t get enough exercise, and more than 63 per cent are overweight or obese. The total economic cost of this physical inactivity to our economy is estimated at $13.8 billion – the majority attributed to loss of productivity, and the cost of obesity is $37.7 billion annually.

Furthermore, physical activity is the second most important factor in disease prevention after quitting smoking – though it’s much easier to do than cutting out cigarettes.

By making the Fringe Benefits Tax fairer to small businesses, we can help more people get fitter by joining our clubs and training with our fitness professionals.

This is why we are urging all health and fitness professionals, as well as businesses, to show their support at and to spread the word to colleagues, members and clients.

Lauretta Stace is a leading advocate for the health and fitness industry. As CEO of Fitness Australia, she is on a systematic and strategic journey to raise the profile of the fitness industry, help integrate it within the health sector and ensure that it is recognised for its role in helping millions of people improve their health and wellbeing.