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New York State decides yoga classes are not subject to city sales tax

Alison West has been at the forefront of the no-yoga-tax movement. (Photo Credit: Gina de la Chesnaye)

Yoga studios around the city scored a major victory this week when the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance decided that yoga classes at studios that exclusively teach yoga are not subject to New York City sales tax.

The state began enforcing the tax on yoga classes earlier this year, prompting the mobilization of yogis around the city, who banded together to fight the tax, led by Alison West’s Yoga for NY.

Studios and teachers claimed classes did not fit into the fitness section of the tax code, which called for sales tax, and that they had more in common with dance studios, which are not subject to it. In the end, the State agreed.

“We conclude that instruction in yoga is not an exercise activity because yoga generally includes within its teachings not simply physical exercise, but activities such as meditation, spiritual chanting, breathing techniques, and relaxation skills,” the advisory opinion states.

Alison West says that the decision is especially important because this is the first time the State has truly acknowledged yoga. “I am deeply pleased that the State was willing to enter into a meaningful, productive dialogue about the issues of yoga studio class-taxation. And yoga students, many of whom are in college, or are waiters, actors, dancers, and so on, will be happy not to have to pay more for class.”

A caveat: The decision only applies to studios that exclusively provide yoga classes. So facilities that also teach Pilates and cardio sculpt will have to charge sales tax on all classes, including yoga.

Still, it’s a big moment for the city’s community of yogis.

“My initial reaction is that this group of leaders in our community came together quite seamlessly and organically, and showed that there is so much strength in a collective voice,” says Kula Yoga co-owner Nikki Vilella, who has been very active in fighting the tax. “I can only hope that this outcome inspires more teachers, students, and studio owners to come forward and join us in solidarity and stand up for what we believe in.”

What do you think about the State’s decision? Should yoga classes be taxed? Tell us, in the Comments, below!