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Active Health Industry Calls For Fringe Benefits Fitness Tax Exemption in Workplaces

In a bid to tackle Australia’s national obesity, mental health and cost of living crisis and boost the economy, the active health industry is proposing the government provides a fringe benefits tax (FBT) exemption for workplace fitness in the 2024-25 Federal budget.

Data shows workplace fitness interventions increases productivity, causes less absenteeism, improves employee sleep patterns, cognitive function, enhances morale and better social connection.

Currently, employers are liable for the tax on fringe benefits but AUSactive – Australia’s peak body for the exercise and active health sector – has submitted a budget proposal to the Treasurer to allow ALL employers to be able to provide staff with gym memberships without penalty.

If the FBT exemption is successful, AUSactive CEO Barrie Elvish says it will encourage mass return to offices, stimulate CBD economic activity, be a potential attractive and low-cost addition to enterprise agreements.

AUSactive has submitted a proposal to the Treasurer for the 2024-25 Federal Budget to allow an exemption under the existing Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) legislation to enable employers to be able to pay for gym memberships for their staff in the budget.

AUSactive CEO, Barrie Elvish says, “These changes need no budget allocation but will support employers to promote physical activity to improve people’s wellbeing, and will incentivise individuals to invest in their health by taking up exercise programs. 

“There is a critical need for initiatives that enhance physical well-being in the workforce and we also propose an income tax deduction for bona fide active health participation including gym memberships.

“The detrimental impact of Australians' sedentary lifestyles is contributing to the staggering $27 billion spent treating chronic diseases annually, yet these conditions are somewhat preventable –  36% of disease could be improved through modifying risk factors such as physical inactivity.

“By reducing barriers to access physical activity, we will see a reduction in government spend on Medicare as Australians will reduce their risk of chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, depression, anxiety, and dementia – with huge economic gain.”

With Australians living and working longer, AUSactive argues employers should be able to offer staff gym memberships or home fitness equipment as a benefit and claim the costs against tax. 

“To achieve longer working lives, workplaces need to become more supportive of workers, especially mature ones, and accommodate long-term health conditions,” surmises My Elvish.

AUSactive is also advocating for a third crucial initiative—a partnership between  the government and grassroots organisations to develop and activate a national public health campaign to educate about the vital role of physical activity in enhancing physical and mental well-being. 

It also suggests other strategic initiatives that align with the government's objectives to ease cost-of-living pressures, implement the National Preventive Health Strategy to combat chronic diseases and reduce financial demands on the Health system.

“By empowering individuals to apply this knowledge and make informed decisions, significant savings will be made in the healthcare budget, stemming from reduced hospital admissions and reliance on treatments for preventable conditions through the promotion of physical activity,” adds Mr Elvish.

“Together, these proposals will provide a transformative approach in preventive healthcare and will support our economy, with a proactive investment in the well-being of Australians.”

Research shows sedentary behaviour, i.e. excessive sitting, is associated with chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes (T2D), cardiovascular disease, various cancers and premature mortality.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) estimates physical inactivity accounted for around $2.4 billion in health spending in 2018-19. The cost to the health system would have been $1.7 billion higher without the health benefits from current levels of physical activity, including sport, undertaken in Australia.

“We spend $450 each year for every man, woman and child in Australia treating mental health problems, yet research shows exercise is 1.5 times more effective than pharmaceuticals or counselling in treating anxiety and depression,” adds Mr Elvish.

AUSactive sparked political action around fitness in September with its bipartisan ‘Fit for Office’ initiative. The epic head-to-head fitness battle saw 28 MPs and their staff battle it out over four weeks to burn more than two million calories, with Labor's Dr Andrew Leigh and the Coalition's Angus Taylor coming first and second.


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