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New York City yoga instructors can relax; their classes aren't taxable exercise

New York City yoga instructors who've been tied up in knots about the possibility that their sessions would be taxed can relax.

Tax officials have determined that yoga isn't officially exercise.

Yoga_Dmitriy-Shironosov_iStock_000015998732XSmall Yoga practice by Dmitriy Shironosov via iStock

That's not a slam at yoga, which can indeed work up a sweat and help devotees lose weight. I can attest to that.

But from a tax standpoint, the no-exercise determination is a good thing. It means that yoga classes are exempt from the Big Apple's sales tax.

Earlier this year, sales tax audits of yoga studios were initiated and some feared they could face years of unpaid back taxes.

But with last week's ruling by the New York Department of Taxation and Finance, sessions at facilities dedicated solely to instruction of yoga concepts and poses are not taxable.

If, however, yoga is taught inside a New York City gym or fitness studio, that business will have to pay sales tax on the classes.

The official statement describes health and fitness clubs as those facilities that generally provide customers or members with access to exercise equipment. This includes Pilates, aerobics and fitness studios, weight reducing salons, spas, gyms, saunas, Turkish baths, tanning salons and similar businesses.

The reason for the distinction? Tax officials say that yoga's focus on spirituality sets studios where it alone is taught apart from typical exercise facilities.

"We looked into the history and origins of yoga and found that it was more meditative and spiritual rather than fitness," Empire State tax office spokesman Geoffrey Gloak told DNAinfo.com.

That finding definitely gives yoga instructors and their students some peace of mind as well as few extra dollars.

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