Can I deduct my gym membership?

January 09, 2020 by Glynis Miller, CPA, MST
people running on treadmills in a gym

Near the end of each year or just after a new year begins, many people start making resolutions on what they will do to change some part of their life. One resolution that seems to always be at the top of the list is to improve one's general health. To this end, people will either strive to eat better or get more exercise with the goal of losing weight. Or, maybe someone has a job in the entertainment field that requires maintaining a certain physical condition. Often people will choose exercise as a way to achieve one of these goals just mentioned. So, how can you get more exercise? Well, there is no better way than signing up for that new gym membership.

If either of the scenarios listed above fits where you are at, you may be asking the question: Can I deduct my gym membership?

The most likely answer for most people would be no, as the general rule is that you cannot deduct the cost of the gym membership. When we are trying to maintain good health or stay in relatively good shape (as they say) by going to the gym, it is generally considered a personal expense. General toning and fitness workouts are viewed by the IRS as nondeductible personal expenses. Personal, living, or family expenses are generally not tax-deductible, though there are some exceptions.

For example, if you were diagnosed as being obese or having hypertension, that gym membership may be deductible as a medical expense. In the event the gym membership can be claimed as a medical expense, the expenses are reported as itemized deductions. As medical expenses, the deduction will be subject to certain adjusted gross income limitations that can vary depending on the tax year in question.

However, it will take more than just simply being told by your doctor that you are obese and need to lose weight, or that you need to take this prescription because you have hypertension to prove that the gym membership qualifies as a medical expense. It will require written verification of the specific diagnosis of the medical condition, specific physical or mental defect, or illness. Additionally, as part of the diagnosis, the doctor must have recommended in writing the use of the health club facilities as a treatment for your specific ailment. Documentation will be required to prove the cost of the gym membership and what specific activities at the gym are used in the treatment of your condition. If you already had a gym membership prior to receiving the diagnosis, it may be difficult to prove that it meets the requirement to be deducted as a medical expense.

Those in the entertainment field will generally have a much more difficult time proving that the cost of the gym membership is tax-deductible. As previously noted, general toning and fitness are viewed as personal expenses. Thus, it is difficult to show that gym memberships would be an ordinary and necessary business expense. It should be noted that an IRS examiner could review the gym membership based on facts and circumstances and determine that a gym membership was deductible if it was for a limited time and a specific purpose. An example would be if a movie actor needed to bulk up for a specific role and then stopped using the gym after the role ended. Again, if the gym membership was not purchased specifically for getting ready for that acting role, it will be difficult to argue that it is deductible in the case.



Glynis Miller, CPA, MST
Tax Content Developer


Glynis began her career with TaxAudit in February 2006 as a Seasonal Tax Return Reviewer. In December of 2008, she joined the permanent staff as an Audit Representative. Glynis has been an instructor for both continuing education tax classes and various staff training classes since 2009. Glynis holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting and a Master’s Degree in Taxation. Prior to joining TaxAudit, Glynis worked in private and public sectors of accounting. She has worked at regional accounting firms preparing tax returns, financial statements, and audit services. Her professional career has spanned over a wide variety of industries from advertising, construction, commercial real estate, farming, manufacturing and more. In 2017, Glynis joined the Learning and Development Department as a Tax Content Developer. She is providing a wealth of accounting and tax knowledge, writing skills, current job awareness, and a very cross-functional skillset to the team. 


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