Chairman Phil Mendelson Wants to Tax Fitness in D.C.

Phil Mendelson. Photo Credit: The Washington Times.

Phil Mendelson. Photo Credit: The Washington Times.

Nobody likes to pay new taxes. Sure, some argue that taxes can be good: they get people to cut down on socially unacceptable activities: cigarette-smoking, junk food consumption, successful businessmen’s economic activity, etc. But the D.C. City Council is targeting a sector unaccustomed to such attention: fitness.

Under Chairman Phil Mendelson’s (D) budget proposal, D.C. gyms will start paying the 5.75% sales tax on January 1, 2015. Mendelson argues that the money taken from taxing gyms and other businesses will allow D.C. to lower the income tax for low and medium income levels, making D.C. more affordable. Perhaps, but that’s not the whole truth.

The Washington Post reports that “the budget also gives city employees raises, increases funding for almost every department.” So Mendelson is going to dig into the pockets of D.C.’s gyms while granting city employees raises. And if the city council approves this budget, D.C. residents will soon face steeper gym fees.

On Facebook, CrossFit Balance warned its members that D.C.’s new tax will raise the rates CrossFitters pay “by as much $12-$15 per month.” I spoke to Mark Crick, owner of Balance Gym, home to CrossFit Balance. If Mendelson is trying to make D.C. more affordable, he’s not doing so for people who care about fitness:

“The cost of doing business in a large city like Washington DC is already extraordinary high, this already makes our pricing point for services unreachable by those who need it most. People are hurting and already making sacrifices to maintain their CrossFit membership. I see people canceling everyday as they just can’t make their budgets work, it makes no sense to make it even harder!”

Steven Dolge, owner of Second Wind CrossFit, put it simply, “The city should be incentivizing people to get fit, not decentivizing it.” 

A CrossFit affiliate uprising against the fitness tax could make a difference. Former Mayor Adrian Fenty floated the same idea 4 years ago, but the proposal disappeared after “hundreds of people rallied against the tax.”

The final vote on D.C.’s budget is June 17. Unless the CrossFit affiliate community rallies to stop Mendelson’s fitness tax, Crick warns,

“All affiliate owners need to take note! If a tax on fitness can be slapped on the nations most recently crowned fittest city, it can happen to you!”

Click here to tell the D.C. City Council how you feel about the fitness tax

You can also reach Mendelson directly at (202) 724-8032, on Twitter, or via email at

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