Fitness Tax Credits: Costs, Benefits, and Viability

Reach, Daniel M. | April 1, 2012

As the number of overweight and obese Americans rises, it becomes increasingly clear that Americans need further incentives to stimulate lasting lifestyle changes. Tax incentives focused on exercise, which have been largely unexplored to this point, are an effective response to the growing obesity problem in the United States that would largely avoid the political opposition that tax policies focused on diet have encountered. In addition, they would also provide a more palatable solution for the taxpayer beneficiaries with a relatively low impact on government revenues. Viable tax incentives to encourage greater fitness include tax credits and sales tax breaks, or, alternatively, direct subsidies can be used to facilitate similar behavior. This Article posits that, from this menu of options, tax credits to encourage exercise stand to create the most lasting positive results. Further, it presents a proposed fitness tax credit usable by state, local, or national government bodies and demonstrates that the most effective way to garner support for a fitness-based tax credit in the United States is to couple the credit with a broader emphasis on healthier lifestyles and to emphasize its potential long-term revenue gains.