5 min read

Is my gym membership tax deductible?

By Haley Davidson

Founder & Content Strategist, Gaia Content

Tax season is upon us, gym memberships are getting more and more expensive, and you might be left wondering “Is a gym membership tax deductible?”  📝

When you’re a small business owner or freelancer, one of the perks is writing off everything from your phone bill to your dream car (have you heard about the G-wagon tax write-off?).

But that doesn’t mean you can write off everything. If you write off something that isn’t truly a business expense, you could quickly end up in hot water with the IRS—and no one wants that. 😳

That’s why we’re here to give you expert-informed advice about your gym membership. We’ll help you figure out if your health club membership or personal training sessions can help you lower your taxable income—and as a result, the amount of money you have to pay in business taxes. 

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We’ll walk you through the steps to determine if your fitness costs are deductible as a self-employed person:

➡️ Disclaimer: The content in this article has been reviewed by a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA). However, before writing off any expenses on your tax return this year, it’s always a good idea to consult with a tax professional who can review your unique situation.

Is a gym membership tax deductible? 

The answer is in most cases, no. According to the IRS, you can write off your gym membership fees if they are considered an “ordinary” and “necessary” expense for your business (i.e. common and beneficial). A gym membership can also be claimed as tax deductible on your personal tax return if it’s a documented necessary medical expense.  🤓

Sometimes these two things can be a real pain to prove and limited based on your income bracket, but it can be done if you meet the criteria and have the right paperwork.

What are “ordinary” and “necessary” expenses?

An “ordinary” expense is an expense that professionals in your industry run into regularly. For example, photographers often have to buy photo editing software. 📷

A “necessary” expense is something that can benefit your job but is avoidable. If we’re using the same photographer’s example, we can think of studio lights. They aren’t not necessary, but they can certainly lead to a higher caliber photoshoot, meaning more revenue and profit for your business. 📸

There are a lot of business owners out there who don’t need a gym membership to function, and therefore, they can’t claim a tax deduction for a gym membership.

As a reminder, for your gym membership to be tax deductible, it has to be both ordinary and necessary. 

Cases when a gym membership would be tax deductible

There’s a handful of cases where gym memberships are both common and beneficial in a line of business. If you fall into any of the following categories, make sure to claim that tax deduction:

  • Personal trainer: You need a gym membership because that’s where you need to go to train your clients. 😎

  • Coach: Like a personal trainer, you might need a gym membership to meet and coach your teams. ⛹️

  • Bodybuilder: You might need a gym membership because bulking is the name of the game when it comes to your line of work – especially if you’re expected to look a certain way – and you can’t do that without a gym’s machines. 🕴️

  • Actor/Actress: If your upcoming role requires you to build a certain physique, all of a sudden it’s your business to get up in the gym (and sometimes even get personal training). 🎭

  • Model: If you’re required to look a certain way for a business event (which in your case could be a photoshoot or runway event), then your membership might be tax deductible. 👗

  • Athlete: If your career hinges on your athletic ability, your gym membership is likely tax deductible.🏄

If your membership cost is reduced, comped, or included for free, you can’t deduct the full price of the benefit. In other words, you can’t double-dip.

When is a gym membership tax deductible for medical reasons?

According to the IRS in Rev. Rul. 2002-19, to get a gym membership filed as a medical expense, you need a recorded medical condition and action plan from a physician or medical professional that specifically calls out a program at the gym. Otherwise, a gym membership will be seen as just a personal expense. 💅

Imagine someone is classified with obesity and hypertension by their doctor. To heal their condition, the doctor writes that they need to join a weight loss program. Therefore, the weight loss program would be considered as healthcare and a deductible expense.

However, the gym membership itself would not be. It’s not the gym that’s considered curative—it’s the weight loss class. So, the gym membership would be just for your general wellness. 🩻

(We know, this is the tricky part of tax laws).

Now say your weight loss class provider offers a meal program for an additional cost. That additional cost of the meal program would not be considered a deductible medical expense because it wasn’t required by your physician.

How to claim a gym membership tax write-off

The most important thing to claim gym membership as a business expense is that you document everything. And I mean everything. 📜

Keep your receipts organized and maintain a record of every single fee and the purpose of it related to your business. And if you’re trying to claim your gym membership as a medical expense, make sure you’re following your doctor’s notes to the letter and have them easily organized.

Need help with your receipts? Learn how Relay can help you stay on top of your receipts—and maintain the documentation you need for your gym membership tax deduction.

TLDR: gym memberships are (sometimes) tax-deductible

Let’s get physical 💪

There’s no denying the benefits of a fitness facility. Workouts can give us access to look and feel our best. The issue is only some of us taxpayers with a clear tie to our business can claim it as a tax write-off when we file taxes. But that doesn’t mean we all have to stop going to the gym! 

Get savvy with your other tax deductions instead and manage your money like a pro with valuable insights from Relay.

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Frequently asked questions 

You might be left with some other questions about business expenses. Don’t worry, we won’t leave you hanging!

What other tax deductions might exist for independent contractors?

You can maximize your tax deductions by claiming the following expenses:

  • Home office deduction: You can get a tax deduction for your home office if your home is the main place where you work. 💻

  • Mileage deduction: You can get a write-off for all the miles you drive to and from business meetings. 🚗

  • Education deduction: You can save on your tax return to continue your education in your field so you don’t fall behind your competitors. 🎓

  • Business meals deduction: You can claim partial to full deductions for any business meals you run into. 😋

  • Health insurance premiums deduction: You can claim a 100% tax deductible for health insurance premiums. 💲

Just don't forget to check with your accountant or tax expert to make sure you properly document and claim these expenses in your business tax return. That's the best way to avoid future issues with the IRS!

Can I deduct car expenses as an independent contractor? 

As mentioned earlier, you can get a tax deduction for all the miles you drive to business meetings if you can document the business it’s tied to. Like everything else, this is going to require robust record-keeping.  📑

However, you can’t get a deduction for driving to your main office or secondary office. Keep the following things on hand to claim a mileage deduction:

  • Date 

  • Miles driven to and from the business meetings

  • Location 

  • Business purpose

What’s changing in the 2024 federal tax brackets?

You’re not the only one struggling to stay on top of all the tax changes. With some tax advice from the Freelancers Union, we found out some of the biggest changes in 2024 are:

  • The SEP-IRA contribution limit has grown to $69K 📈

  • The annual SEP-IRA contributions limit has grown to $7K 💸

  • Tax credits for energy-efficient improvements to your home have increased 🏠