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article imageWashington's yoga community opposes 'yoga tax'

By Sravanth Verma     Sep 26, 2014 in Health
The Washington D.C. city council will be imposing a 5.75 percent sales tax on facilities that provide fitness services starting from October 1.
Yoga studios will also be falling under the tax blanket, and the city's yoga community has come out in opposition of the tax. The tax is being called "yoga tax" by the community, who argue that yoga is not a physical exercise but a spiritual process. The District of Columbia Council voted 12-1 in June in favor of a $10.6 billion budget that included the tax imposition. Mayor Vincent Gray, who opposed the tax, has however signed the budget with effect from October 1.
“None of us in the yoga community think the purpose is physical exercise,” Richard Karpel, president of Yoga Alliance, said. “Yoga is the union of the body, the mind and the spirit … The idea, when you practice yoga, is to create that union,” he added.
However, Phil Mendelson, chairman of the D.C. city council, who proposed the tax, points out that it is only now that the yoga community is making the case that the tax should not apply to them. When the tax was initially proposed, they opposed its proposal since they considered that it would be applicable to them too. “The yoga community was very much part of the opposition because they said [the tax] applied to them. So there’s no question they were considered to be included. It’s difficult to say, ‘Don’t tax me,’ and then when the law goes through anyway to say, ‘Oh, it doesn’t apply,’” he said.
The yoga community has approached the Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR) to change their current position that yoga is taxable. Ian Mishalove, a kundalini yoga teacher said he was trying to organize his fellow teachers into calling council members to discuss the matter. “The new law takes effect next week and the big question still remains: Does that include yoga?” said Mishalove. “D.C. officials haven’t decided yet and having more people make the case will help.”
In case the tax does go through, the yoga community is planning further steps to deal with it, though no one seems to be clear what these steps will be. “Nothing has really been talked about beyond what this first effort would be,” said Mishalove. “There are potentially other avenues that could be pursued.”
A survey by the American College of Sports Medicine in early 2014 had ranked the city as first for fitness among the United States' 50 biggest metropolitan areas.
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