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05 October, 2017

Dublin, 5th October 2017: Ireland Active, the representative body for the Leisure, Health and Fitness industry in Ireland, is calling on the Government, as part of Budget 2018, to use VAT and Tax measures as a means of getting Irish people more active by:

  • Keeping the 9% VAT rate for the sport and leisure sector- this applies to swimming pool and gym membership/access and rental of sports facilities
  • Extending the VAT exemption on swimming lessons for children to all activity programmes for children and adults, and consider a 0% VAT rate instead
  • Removing the Benefit in Kind tax burden on employers and employees for swimming pool and gym membership, and extend the once off gift for employees from €500 to €1,000
  • Increasing investment in Sports Capital and Local Authority Swimming Pool programmes on an annual basis
  • Ringfencing a portion of the new Sugar Tax for schools education programmes on nutrition and physical activity

Physical activity is key to maintaining health and well-being with adults requiring 30 minutes of moderate physical activity 5 times each week. This rises to 60 minutes of vigorous activity every day for children. Meeting the guidelines is a growing problem in Ireland with over two thirds of the adult population and 80% of children not doing enough exercise to meet the recommended levels.


The introduction of the reduced 9% VAT rate in 2011 has had an impact with rates of personal exercise increasing from 11% to 13.8% in that period. With 490,000 people exercising in gyms and leisure centres each week the retention of the reduced rate of VAT is seen by industry members as important to further growing that number.


Currently, swimming lessons for children which align with the primary and secondary physical education curriculum benefit from a VAT exemption. Ireland Active would like to see this extended to all physical activity and sports programmes designed to get and keep children and adults active. This mirrors similar initiatives already in place in Canada & UK that have targeted increasing physical activity levels amongst children.


Gym membership is current treated as a benefit in kind for employers and employees. The threshold for gifts to employees each year is €500 and we wish to see this rise to €1,000 as well as the removal of the benefit in kind provision to encourage a more healthy workforce.


The level of investment in sports facilities varies each year and there is a need to increase investment and ensure it happens on an annual basis to ensure facilities and local clubs get much needed upgrades and equipment.


The new sugar tax which is earmarked to be introduced as part of the budget should be partially ringfenced for programmes that educate children around nutrition and physical activity. A similar approach has been taken in the UK where funding is provided to schools sport.


Conn McCluskey, Chief Executive of Ireland Active said: “Increasing physical activity levels amongst the entire population is now a cornerstone of Government policy given that physical activity is seen as a key contributor to public health. We do believe that fiscal measures have a role to play in that overall policy framework. There is evidence that the reduced VAT rate has helped increase levels of personal exercise and as a result believe that it is important that this be retained as well as the elimination of VAT on children’s and adults exercise. In addition, employers and employees are taxed on receipt of gym membership which is an unnecessary tax burden in an economy where we want to encourage wellbeing in the workplace. Physical inactivity is estimated to cost the exchequer €1.3 billion each year with obesity costing as much as €1.6 billion, it therefore makes sense for government to incentivise and support physical activity as a measure to reduce the cost to the taxpayer.”

Click here to read the Ireland Active Budget Submission 2018. 

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