Would you join a gym if the membership was VAT-free?

The BBC reported this week that the boss of Britain’s largest gym chain is calling for the government to remove VAT from gym memberships in a bid to improve the nation’s health.

Humphrey Cobbold, the CEO of Pure Gym – which has over 200 gyms across the country, claims that price is the single most important factor when people decide whether or not to join a gym.

With so many people facing health issues that could be combatted with regular exercise, joining a gym is a great way of getting fit physically and mentally, and then staying in shape – so keeping membership prices low certainly could influence decisions to sign up to a gym. And we agree that the extra 20% VAT could be the crunch deciding factor.

Humphrey Cobbold told a radio show that, “It seems a little bit strange for the government to tax [going to the gym] at 20% when we want more people to be doing it.”

The Treasury has replied that its hands are tied by European Union VAT rules. VAT is not charged on sports activities delivered on a non-profit basis, so if a gym doesn’t make a profit, its members don’t pay VAT on membership fees. However, profit-making gyms, like Pure Gym with its million members, are forced to charge VAT.

It’s estimated that one in seven people in the UK is a member of a gym. If you’re one of the other six, would a price reduction encourage you to sign up? Here at Nordens, we’re campaigning for fitter staff. For our Fit Fridays initiative, we go on a 30-minute walk together each week to get in shape while raising money for charity. There’s no VAT on charitable donations, so if you fancy joining us on any Friday just give us a call on 020 8530 0720 and we’ll tell you where to meet.