Ireland Active, the representative body for the fitness and leisure industry in Ireland, is calling on the Government, as part of Budget 2017, to use VAT as a means of getting Irish people more active by:
- Retaining the 9% VAT rate for the fitness and leisure industry that has applied since 2011 to gym membership, swimming pool admission and the renting of sports pitches and halls; and
- Extending the VAT exemption for swimming lessons to all children’s exercise programmes.
Physical activity is key to maintaining health and well-being with adults requiring 30 minutes of moderate physical activity 5 times each week. This rises to 60 minutes of vigorous activity every day for children. Meeting the guidelines is a growing problem in Ireland with over two thirds of the adult population and 80% of children not doing enough exercise to meet the recommended levels.
The introduction of the reduced 9% VAT rate in 2011 has had an impact with rates of personal exercise increasing from 11% to 13.4% in that period. With 490,000 people exercising in gyms and leisure centres each week the retention of the reduced rate of VAT is seen by industry members as important to further growing that number.
Currently, swimming lessons for children which align with the primary and secondary physical education curriculum benefit from a VAT exemption. Ireland Active would like to see this extended to all physical activity and sports programmes designed to get and keep children active. This mirrors similar initiatives already in place in Canada & UK that have targeted increasing physical activity levels amongst children.
Speaking on their pre-budget submission Ireland Active ambassador, Anna Geary commented: “I was lucky to be involved in sport and physical activity from a young age and it has gone on to play a big part throughout my life. I have seen first-hand the benefit of regular physical activity and believe that it is hugely important that all possible encouragement is given to people to get more active.”
Conn McCluskey, Chief Executive of Ireland Active said: “Increasing physical activity levels amongst the entire population is now cornerstone of Government policy given that physical activity is seen as a key contributor to public health. We do believe that fiscal measures have a role to play in that overall policy framework. There is evidence that the reduced VAT rate has helped increase levels of personal exercise and as a result believe that it is important that this be retained as well as the elimination of VAT on children’s exercise. We know there are real benefits to getting young people involved at an early age in physical activity to form what we hope will be habits for a lifetime which, ultimately will have a positive impact on the health of the nation as well as economically given that 11% of the overall health spend each year is estimated to be due to physical inactivity.”