The Workforce Health Improvement Program (WHIP) Act is back on Capitol Hill.
The bill, introduced by U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and referred to the Senate Committee on Finance on Nov. 18, would equalize the tax consequences of employee athletic facility use.
Cornyn has introduced a similar bill five times before: in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011. Each of those bills died, according to GovTrack.us, a government transparency website that tracks bills. The site, which is not affiliated with the government, gives the latest version of the bill a six percent chance of getting out of committee and a two percent chance of passing. Fifteen percent of bills introduced from 2013-2015 made it past committee and three percent were enacted, according to the website.
Under current tax law, businesses are permitted to deduct the cost of on-site exercise facilities and employees are not taxed on the benefit. However, if an employer provides the same benefit at an off-site facility, employees who use the benefit are required to pay income tax on the value of the subsidy. The act would prevent this wellness benefit from being considered additional income for employees.
The International Health Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) continued to voice support for the WHIP Act, as it has with previous efforts to pass the legislation.
"By keeping workers healthy, we control the cost of health care, increase productivity, and bolster the ability of America’s businesses to compete in a global economy," IHRSA President and CEO Joe Moore said in a statement. "Undoubtedly, primary prevention – supported by legislation like the WHIP Act and other public policy endeavors – is the most cost-effective means of securing the future health and prosperity of America. The WHIP Act takes a significant step in this direction."
The WHIP Act would make it easier for all employers to offer exercise incentives to workers without tax complications, Moore added.
Also awaiting the Committee on Finance is the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act introduced in October. Like the WHIP Act, the PHIT Act has been introduced in Congress in previous years but has yet to pass.
The PHIT Act would amend the IRS code to allow for a medical care tax deduction on qualified purchases for up to $1,000 per taxpayer or $2,000 for married couples filing jointly or heads of household, according to a release from the four senators who co-sponsored the bill.