A bipartisan bill passed by the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday would allow taxpayers to claim new tax breaks for gym memberships, exercise classes and other fitness expenses, The Wall Street Journal’s Richard Rubin reports.
The costs of those activities would count as medical expenses under the new legislation, allowing people to pay for them through their health-savings accounts and flexible spending accounts.
The tax break, capped at $500 a year for individuals or $1,000 for joint filers, would reduce federal revenue by $3.5 billion over a decade, Rubin writes.
While the House bill has 135 co-sponsors and the Senate version has 16, the idea is much less popular with tax policy experts. “The tax-policy people in my Twitter feed are headdesking over this bill that came out of Ways and Means today,” Rubin noted in a tweet.
That’s partly because the benefit of the new break would go mostly to high-income households that are already paying for gym memberships, as Leonard Burman, a tax expert at the Urban Institute, told Rubin. “Every principle of tax policy is violated by this,” Burman said. “It’s not at all clear that it would have any effect on overall health of the population or that it’s a particularly effective way to make people healthy.”