House committee advances legislation providing tax break for gym membership

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The House Ways and Means Committee has passed a bill allowing taxpayers to treat the amounts paid for membership at a fitness facility and gym classes as medical expenses.

The bill, known as the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act, was sponsored by Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., and Ron Kind, D-Wis. It adds qualified sports and fitness expenses to the definition of qualified medical expenses. The bill includes membership in a fitness facility, participation or instruction in a program of physical exercise or activity, and safety equipment for use in a program (including a self-directed program) of physical exercise or activity. The amount treated as qualified sports and fitness expenses couldn’t exceed $500 for an individual taxpayer, or $1,000 for a joint return or head of household. The amount for safety equipment couldn’t exceed $250. The committee approved the bill by a 28 to 7 margin, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Because of limits on tax deductions for medical expenses from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the bill would mostly benefit people who have health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts, which could now be used to pay for gym memberships and fitness classes.

There are some limitations on qualified expenses under the bill. Golf, hunting, sailing and riding wouldn’t be treated as a physical exercise or physical activity. Qualified sports and fitness expenses also wouldn’t include videos, books or similar materials.

The bill was one of several that the House Ways and Means Committee marked up this week related to health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts. The committee also passed a bill rolling back a provision in the Affordable Care Act that prohibited HSAs and FSAs from being used to pay for over-the-counter medical products without a prescription. The bill, co-sponsored by Reps. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., and Grace Meng, D-N.Y., also adds feminine or “menstrual care” products to the list of qualified medical expenses for the purposes of these tax-favored health accounts. That bill passed by a 24 to 10 margin.

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Finance, investment and tax-related legislation Tax laws Trump tax plan Tax breaks HSAs FSAs