Here’s an interesting article from last weekend’s NY Times about recent attempts by the government to tax yoga studios.
On the one hand, I can’t see why yoga should be exempt from sales tax. Yoga is a business, after all. A multi-billion-dollar-a-year business, in fact!
But some yoga studio owners claim that yoga is a spiritual/religious activity, and that it shouldn’t be taxed like other commodities. This seems like a viable argument only if a yoga studio is a legitimate non-profit organization with tax-exempt status. If someone is running a for-profit yoga studio, though, it seems to me that they ought to play by the rules. I don’t think it’s a viable argument against taxes to claim that yoga studios operate on such thin margins that any sales tax would impose an undue financial burden on them. Lots of businesses operate on thin margins, but that’s no excuse for not paying taxes!
There are a few other interesting issues raised in this article, including whether or not yoga instructors are “employees” or “independent contractors”. This is a really sticky topic, and a lot of small (and big) businesses are dodging payroll taxes, workers comp insurance, etc., by classifying their workers as contractors rather than employees. It disturbs me that yoga studio owners might be playing this sketchy game with their teachers, who are the lifeblood of their studios. Of course, there are legitimate circumstances under which a yoga instructor should be classified as a contractor and not as an employee. I’m no expert in employment law, but I hope that yoga studios, of all places, would treat their workers fairly and honestly.
All these various issues get at something I’ve discussed before on this blog — i.e., the awkward combo of yoga and business. I don’t think this is a marriage made in heaven, by any means, and it will probably always be fraught with difficulties.