Can Dues to a 501(c)(3) Sports Club Be Tax-Deductible?

The IRS has specific rules on gym memberships.

The IRS has specific rules on gym memberships.

Few people -- other than CPAs and masochists -- like tax time. You pull out a list of every expense from the past year, light a candle to the gods of deductions, and hope that you can maximize your return. When the receipt of the gym membership floats to the top, you might think that there is a tax deduction there. After all, the doctor did tell you to lose some weight.

Doctor Prescribed

The Internal Revenue Service makes a clear distinction between wellness and medically necessary. Going to a gym may fulfill your doctor’s requirement to get some more exercise but it also generally makes you feel good. Because sports club memberships fall within this gray area, the IRS does not allow them to be included as medical expenses. Even with a prescription, the membership would not be a deduction. You would need to use the facilities at a physical therapy rehabilitation center to get the deduction.

Deductible Medical Expenses

The costs of some individual extra services available through a sports club might be deductible. The fee for a massage recommended by your doctor to alleviate back pain qualifies as a medical deduction. Likewise, the costs of acupuncture, yoga or cardio-karate are all possible deductions as long as the service or activity is recommended by a health care provider and the fees paid for them are in addition to the cost of membership.

It's a Nonprofit

Quite a few nonprofits offer sports club memberships. The YMCA is one of the largest. The IRS recognizes some organizations as tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) because they have a charitable mission. Because of this exemption, donations made to such organizations are tax-deductible. Paying dues for membership does not constitute a donation. It is not a donation if you receive anything for it. When you pay for your sports club membership, you are getting the use of the facilities in return.

The Numbers

You may deduct medical expenses that exceed 7.5 percent of your gross income. If your gross income is $40,000, you will be able to deduct medical expenses greater than $3,000. Let’s say that your gym offers physical therapy for $75 per session. The cost of seeing the therapist every week for a year would be $3,900, $900 of which you would be able to deduct when preparing your income tax return..

About the Author

Paul Reyes-Fournier has served as the chief financial officer for social service organizations, churches and schools. In 2009, he created his own marketing firm, RF Media. Reyes-Fournier holds a B.S. in physics and an M.B.A.

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