New Jersey Looks to Tax Memberships

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TRENTON, NJ — To the dislike of many New Jersey club owners and members, New Jersey is seeking to add a 7 percent sales tax to annual health club membership fees. If approved, the tax would apply to health, golf and country club memberships to raise an estimated $74.7 million to help with the state's $5 billion budget deficit.

Since early April, thousands of e-mails opposing the tax have been sent through IHRSA's online advocacy system, according to the IHRSA Web site. The Robert Wood Johnson (RWJ) Health and Wellness Center in Hamilton, NJ, with its 40,000 members in four centers statewide, has also started a letter-writing campaign to fight the proposal.

“We have such a senior offering, and if it comes down to it, unfortunately, they wouldn't be able to afford [the tax],” said Sheri Firstenberg, assistant to the managing partners at RWJ. “I think [the tax] would negatively impact our membership in that population. [Seniors] are why we got in this business to begin with.”

To fight the tax, RWJ wrote a letter to New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, photocopied it and asked members to sign one of the letters. Firstenberg has sent in more than 2,000 letters since the beginning of April.

“We really need to promote a strong message to the state and federal government that we want our community to embrace a lifestyle that promotes a healthy lifestyle and activity,” Firstenberg said. “Discouraging a positive activity rather than a negative one doesn't make much sense.”

Twenty-three other states impose a sales tax on gym memberships.

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