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Budget 2019 Submission- Ireland Active

19 September, 2018


Ireland Active calls for VAT and Tax policy measures to help increase physical activity rates and counter obesity and lifestyle disease

Download Ireland Active Budget 2019 Submission here

Dublin, 19th September 2018: Ireland Active, the representative body for the Leisure, Health and Fitness industry in Ireland, is calling on the Government, as part of Budget 2019, to use VAT and Tax measures as well as Capital investment 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 creating a scheme similar to the ‘bike to work’ type scheme for leisure centre and gym membership for employees
- Increasing investment in Sports Capital and Large Scale Infrastructure investment in sports and leisure facilities annually

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% in that period. With 450,000 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. Employment has also increased by 5% in the sports sector since its introduction meaning an additional 2,000 jobs in the health and fitness economy.

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 through the tax system.

Gym membership is current treated as a benefit in kind for employers and employees. We would like to see an approach similar to the ‘bike to work’ scheme where employers are encouraged to gift leisure centre, swimming pool and gym memberships in an effort to create a healthier and more productive 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 Large Scale Infrastructure fund should be aimed at the areas most in need of investment and should not exclude refurbishment of swimming pools and new pools where needed. This investment should be carried out following an extensive facilities audit by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Conn McCluskey, Chief Executive of Ireland Active said:

“The launch of the new National Sports Policy 2018-2017 recognises the importance of the leisure, health and fitness sector in contributing to a more active nation. Tax measures can be an effective way to stimulate growth in participation in sport and one only has to look at the bike to work scheme for evidence of this. We believe a similar scheme aimed at leisure and gym membership would help create a more active workforce. The retention of the 9% VAT rate for the sport and leisure sector is essential if we are to continue the fight against rising physical inactivity and obesity and government should in fact look at exempting leisure and gym membership from VAT altogether. The exemption of swimming lessons for children from VAT should also be extended to all exercise programmes for children and adults. 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.”


– ENDS – 



For further information visit or contact:   

Conn McCluskey, CEO of Ireland Active, 083 128 516






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