ARIANA TAFTI FOR THE HOYA A new D.C. tax will affect some prices at Yates Field House,  including fitness classes and faculty memberships.
ARIANA TAFTI FOR THE HOYA
A new D.C. tax will affect some prices at Yates Field House,
including fitness classes and faculty memberships.

The District of Colombia’s “yoga tax” will go into effect Oct. 1, slightly raising some fees at Yates Field House, as well as at gyms and yoga studios around the city.

Gyms and fitness studios, including Yates, which were previously exempt from the District’s sales tax, will be subject to D.C.’s 5.75 percent service tax, which will apply to all transactions, including membership fees, guest fees, fitness passes, locker rentals, instructional classes and lessons.

All full-time students currently pay a mandatory $194 fee per semester for use of Yates, included in tuition.

Part-time students can choose to pay this student fee for Yates membership. Faculty and staff pay $462 a year for a single membership and $672 a year for a family membership. According to Yates Director Jim Gilroy, under the new tax, faculty and staff will be required to pay the 5.75 percent sales tax on their membership, which amounts to about $27 a year. This averages out to about 50 cents a week.

Approved in June, the new fee, branded the “yoga tax” by critics, has drawn criticism from the fitness community, which is pushing customers to sign up for gyms before the tax’s implementation.

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson proposed the tax expansion.

“The income tax rate will be lowered for all businesses, including gyms and yoga studios. The personal income tax rate will be lowered for all of their customers who pay D.C. income taxes. The tax reform package was the recommendation of a blue ribbon commission,” Mendelson wrote in a statement to The Hoya. “The overall package provides relief to District families struggling with the high cost of living, and ensures that tax savings are reinvested into our neighborhood businesses. I know some gyms have said this will hurt business, but a 5.75 percent sales tax on a $100 membership is unlikely to have that effect.”

According to The Washington Post, the tax will raise $5 million every year to offset tax cuts and save taxpayers up to $143 million a year.

Gilroy said that the cost, though minimal, might still deter individuals from exercising at Yates.

“There might be a cumulative effect since everything will be taxed. There may be a point at which individuals just start to say no to some things. Increased cost is a deterrent for most anything,” Gilroy said.

Gyms and fitness centers around D.C. have promoted “beat the tax” programs, encouraging both new and returning customers to sign up or renew their memberships before the tax takes effect. Stroga, a yoga studio in Adams Morgan, is promoting annual membership deals and fitness class packages that customers can buy this month before the tax is implemented. Jeffrey Melvin, general manager at Stroga, said that the program had received mixed reactions from the public.

FILE PHOTO: RICHARD OLIVEIRA SOENS/THE HOYA
FILE PHOTO: RICHARD OLIVEIRA SOENS/THE HOYA

“There were a couple of bad reviews from it. A couple people were shocked that we were trying to cheat the system when we were only trying to inform people what was going on, give them a way to help themselves,” Melvin said. “We just wanted to get the word out. At the same time, we’ve gotten emails saying, ‘Oh, this is a great idea.’”

Georgetown students who use both Yates and off-campus studios had mixed reactions to the tax.

“I don’t understand how the U.S. and the D.C. government plan on decreasing obesity levels when they are putting a tax on the mechanism to keeping yourself in good shape,” Ileana de la Cruz (COL ’17), who exercises off campus at cycling chain SoulCycle, said.

Marcela Gelhoren (MSB ’18) questioned whether the implementation of the tax would bring any major benefits, but thought that the tax would probably encourage students to exercise at Yates rather than off-campus.

“For me this doesn’t make any difference, since I don’t pay any income taxes. My gym membership will become more expensive and I will get little to no return from that,” Gelhoren said. “Many students don’t have that much money to spend … so if Yates is the cheaper option of all, they will go to Yates.”

For a one-year commitment membership at Washington Sports Club, located at 3222 M St., members pay an initial fee of $49.99 and then an additional $64.99 a month. After three months, this would cost $245, about $50 more than the student semester fee at Yates.

Lydia Hennessey (COL ’18) supports the tax for reasons of financial efficiency, but worries about the effect on health.

“Overall, I think that it’s really hard to argue here because if we have to balance our taxation system, and this a way that this city is doing it, then it is positive. But at the same time, health is so important, and if we do want to combat obesity, that is where you want to start — making affordable means of exercise. Making that more difficult for people to obtain could be a drawback,” Hennessey said. “The only argument that I can see against this is that if you can afford a gym membership, it probably means that you are making a larger income then people who this tax would benefit and this money wouldn’t be affecting your survival.”

Gilroy urged Yates members not to use the tax as an excuse to avoid exercise.

“Fifty cents a week isn’t a lot, and the benefits one receives from regular exercise, for both physical and mental wellness, can make a huge difference in your well-being and quality of life,” Gilroy said.

Other items under the new D.C. sales tax include water delivery services, storage lockers, carpet cleaning, car washes, bowling and billiards.

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